EU states dispatch aid, World Bank approves millions in assistance to pandemic-hit Nepal

By Laxman Datt Pant

EU states dispatch aid, World Bank approves millions in assistance to pandemic-hit Nepal

As Nepal continues to suffer the terrible second wave of COVID-19 together with facing uncertainty about vaccine availability, European Union (EU) member states and the World Bank (WB) have continued in their efforts to help the pandemic-hit country both directly by providing much needed medical equipment and also indirectly by offering support to promote the inclusion of disadvantaged students in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

EU’s medical equipment

On June 13, Slovenia, Austria, and Malta of the EU shipped a large consignment of medical equipment via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in order to assist Nepal in its fight against the new COVID-19 wave.

  • The EU relief equipment was comprised of 30,000 face masks, 100,000 nitrile gloves, 12,500 protective goggles, 100,000 protective masks, and 600,000 non-sterile medical masks.
  • Additional supplies included 50,000 FFP2 masks without valves, 1,000 pulse oximeters, 2,400 antigen tests, 130 non-contact infrared thermometers and 5,000 face shields.

Stating that since the start of this pandemic, Team Europe had stood in solidarity with Nepal, Nona Deprez, the EU Ambassador to Nepal, said, “We will continue to do so, no one is safe until everyone is.”

Asked by DevelopmentAid how the EU monitors COVID-19 related support that comes through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, Ambassador Deprez said: “Together with the other development partners, under the leadership of the MoHP, we track distribution and use of the emergency medical supplies donated across Nepal.” She added that their project partners were also involved in this close monitoring.

Earlier, Spain, Finland, France, Belgium, and Germany had provided their support, and more emergency supplies from Ireland, Italy, Denmark, and Lithuania are expected to arrive shortly.

World Bank’s support for education

On June 11, the World Bank approved a US$60-million loan for the project ‘Nurturing Excellence in Higher Education Program for Results’ in order to expand targeted scholarships to help disadvantaged students pursue labor market-driven academic programs and support equity grants to higher education institutions in needy and disaster-affected areas in Nepal including in the pandemic context.

Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, stated that improving access to quality higher education and helping students acquire the skills that are in demand in the labor market will contribute to Nepal’s COVID-19 recovery and strengthen its resilience.

Similarly, Mohan Aryal, the World Bank’s Program Task Team Leader, said that a key priority of the program was to promote the inclusion of disadvantaged students, including those facing economic hardship due to COVID-19.

With a population of 30 million people, Nepal has been fighting an escalating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic since May. As of 13 June, Nepal has recorded 608,472 confirmed coronavirus cases, a figure practically double that in January 2021. The daily peak was reached in mid-May when the number of those infected exceeded 9,000. The death toll has now risen to 8,412 up from about 2,700 in January. The highest daily death toll was recorded on 19 May when 249 people lost their lives.