Government’s lack of preparedness adding to the woes of the Marginalized communities

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With an alarming rise in COVID 19 cases, the second wave has turned to be even more disastrous than the first wave. Hospitals are reporting a shortage of staff, ward, beds, oxygen and other medical equipment. The number of COVID-19 cases is skyrocketing as the rise of 1200% is seen. Till date, a total of 561,302 cases have been reported till date whereas the daily death charts are also on all time high with total death cases of 7,386.  This is a chaotic situation as people’s access to health services is shrinking. Due to high treatment costs at private hospitals and a shortage of resources at government hospitals, the general publics infected by COVID 19 are deprived of essential health services.

With the severe effect of COVID 19 on tourism, construction, trade and service sectors, people’s livelihood is at risk. The economy of middle- and low-income households became the first prey. Their suffering, which was evident during the first wave of COVID 19 due to job insecurity and uncertainty, has further aggravated during the second wave. Many people from the working class were seen to be heading back home as uncertainty rose. The economic struggle led by job crisis created difficulties to sustain daily lives. People are struggling to make ends meet due to the effect of the pandemic. The deadly second wave has led the general public into a more vulnerable situation than before. In particular, low and middle-income citizens who have contracted the COVID 19 virus but are unable to get affordable health services and treatment have been struggling more.

Overwhelmed government hospitals have been referring patients to private hospitals, as they have run out of beds. However, unaffordability has led economically deprived people into more suffering and even deaths. There are many reports of infected people returning from hospitals without getting admission and treatment due to the lack of resources. Many low income people are forced to stay at home despite their worsening health conditions. As per various reports, the COVID 19 infected people with serious health complications are returned from government hospitals.

Despite the worsening health crisis, the government has been incompetent in addressing the issues and has instead been occupied with power politics. Many believe that Nepal is now in place where India was one month ago and fear that any delay in resource mobilization and disease control will further lead to horrible consequences. The current scenario clearly shows that our government and general public both failed to learn lessons from the pandemic’s first wave and India’s mistake that led to the second wave. Not only the federal but local and provincial government have failed to best address the crisis too either due to lack of funding and resources or a powerlessness and confusion resulting from the Nepal’s immature federal system amidst the ongoing political scenario. The mismanagement at the open Nepal-India border, which could have been better handled by the local and provincial bodies, was a leading cause of rapid surge in the coronavirus cases. However, the main question is how long the general public will have to struggle to get decent support and guidance from the government at times like this.

The failure of government leadership has brought NGOs and voluntary local community groups to the forefront; they are trying to improve the situation with the help of local community. There have been local-level initiatives to build community isolation centers with proper medical equipment and oxygen supplies. Local NGOs and INGOs are also raising awareness in areas like mental health awareness, toll free counseling. But their reach has been limited due to lack of funds, an area that government can supplement. The government needs to develop a quick and long term set of activities to control the current situation. The failure in preparedness should now be overcome with the response and recovery.

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