In Nepal and Kenya, the governments have issued either a complete lockdown or very strict measures. Although none of the countries have many confirmed cases of COVID-19, they are in the high-risk zone due to the inadequate capacity of the healthcare system and the poverty prevailing in both countries.
At the time of writing this newsletter, in Kenya, there have been 216 confirmed cases and 9 deaths. All schools have been closed since the 15th of March. The government has enforced a curfew from 7 pm to 5 am and urged everyone to work from home if possible. Nairobi has been closed down with no one allowed to enter or leave the city. In the Meru County where we are present, the outlook of a potential COVID-19 epidemic is daunting. The county is poor, and most people have to leave their house in order to get food on the table for their families. Most people are working on large farms or flower plantations, which have been shut down for the time being, sending many locals into unemployment and uncertainty. The county has a population of 1.5 million, but only 6 ICU beds and 4 respirators. The healthcare system does not have the capacity to withstand an epidemic like this if it hits the Meru county.
In the words of HPF Country Manager Patriciah Muigai: “Most of the homesteads do not have running water. They rely on a community borehole, water well or rivers. During this time, they have improvised a washing facility out of a 5-liter jerrican on a makeshift foot pedal. Soap is a luxury in many homes as other priorities take precedence. Handwashing and sanitizing is not a norm but now communities have embraced it at homes and even at the local market”.
In Nepal, there have been 16 confirmed cases with no deaths thus far. The complete lockdown was issued on the 23rd of March and schools started closing at the beginning of March. Nepal is trying to prepare the healthcare system for a potential epidemic and is setting up quarantine centers around the country. Nepal canceled the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ campaign, that has been a big investment and priority for the country. Nepal is facing a massive downturn in tourism, which is the second largest industry in Nepal. This will have a huge negative impact on the country and potentially send millions of people out in unemployment. The Taplejung district is completely closed but people are allowed to work in their fields, making it possible for them to secure food for their families and care for their coffee plants for the coming coffee production as part of the HPF Coffee Impact Project.
As our HPF Country Manager Shiva Rayamajhi describes it: “Finding sanitizers in the countryside of Taplejung is almost impossible. In the country, 38% of households have no access to toilets and defecate openly, 85% of the population do not have access to water supply and 35% of rural people wash hands only with water or do not wash hands, the obvious thing is that people have got poor hygiene and sanitation. The situation of poor families is even worse as they have to fight for their hand-to-mouth issues for survival and the lockdown has turned them from breadwinners to relief seekers. Whilst the parents residing in the urban areas do engage their children with multiple choices of web-based educational sites and applications, the parents of Taplejung do not know these provisions, and lack of electricity and internet makes this out of reach. The obvious choice for children is to work at household chores and farms or to play.”