The Corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak has spread around the globe, causing serious health problems, as well as significant economic impacts. As of 9th April 2020, corona virus has spread to 209 countries, including Nepal. More than 1.5 million people have been infected with the virus globally, of which about 330,000 have recovered and around 88,000 people have died. As of 9th April, nine people are infected in Nepal, of which four are from Sudurpaschim province of Nepal. Most countries are in a lockdown situation. Nepal has also been in lockdown since 24th March 2020, in an effort to slow the spread of infection. Naturally, this has caused a lot of fear. While there is no treatment or vaccine available yet, the most important step is preventing the spread, especially to elderly or sick persons. This includes avoiding physical contact, and thorough hygiene actions, especially handwashing.
The Rural Village Water Resources Management Project (RVWRMP) works in Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces of Nepal. Water supply, sanitation and hygiene are key activities for the project – and are vital for slowing the spread of COVID-19. In the current situation, RVWRMP is still working with the people, applying preventive measures, even though both of the provinces are in vulnerable zones for corona virus infection in Nepal (due to the return of seasonal workers from India).
This is the most important year for RVWRMP, with the biggest volume of investment budget and many plans for water supply schemes, as well as other activities. In this year, NPR. 9500 million is budgeted for 61 local levels, including 27 core Rural Municipalities (RMs). RVWRMP personnel are committed to continuing to support the local communities and RMs to meet their targets and improve local living conditions. Even though field travel, mass meetings and trainings are not possible during the lockdown period, some activities are still possible.
The Deputy Team Leader, and many PSU Specialists, Water Resources Advisors, Water Resources Engineers and Technical Facilitators, are working in their duty stations in this critical situation and following up project activities with Rural Municipalities/Municipalities. Project supported staff at the RM level are participating in RM meetings to plan the local responses to the disease.
Safety and hygiene messages on a Flex (banner) for sharing information on corona virus with the community, Thalara RM, Bajhang
As Water Resources Advisors have reported, some scheme activities are still running in close coordination with Rural Municipalities/Municipalities. Community members and Water User Committees are keen to continue the work in order to gain water supply. Some communities are still carrying out scheme works, while maintaining social distancing and applying other preventive measures. Support Organisations (SO) staffs are continuing to support the community in 31 RMs, and four project Technical Facilitators are still working in their localities, providing technical advice. In Humla, construction has not started, but community people are collecting sand and other local materials for scheme construction (not requiring physical contact). Workers are supported to maintain good hygiene by providing soap and masks, and they are encouraged to establish hand washing stations.
In some cases, project staff have worked with RMs to produce awareness raising (IEC) materials regarding hygiene, hand-washing and other methods of avoiding COVID-19 infection, and display them in public locations.
They are also working together on hand washing points, poly tank installation (to make water available in public locations for handwashing), radio jingle airing and providing hand sanitizer. For instance, Naugad RM of Darchula provided support for IEC materials (flex) and airing radio jingles.
Talkot, Thalara and Chhabis Pathibhera RMs of Bajhang, Sayal, Bogatan Fudshil and Badikedar RMs of Doti, and Bhairabi, Naumule and Bhagawatimai RMs of Dailekh have supported IEC material production (flex banners) and display, sharing key messages regarding hygiene. In addition, Bahirabi RM of Dailekh also supported hand washing with a poly tank at RM premises. Support Organization and RM staffs of Pancheshwor and Shivanath RMs were provided with hand sanitizer. Similarly, the project has worked with Bogatan Fudshil RM of Doti on jingle airing through the FM radio station, ward-wise orientation and installation of a hand washing station. Some materials such as soap, sanitizer, etc. and IEC materials, were supported in Aalital RM of Dadeldhura district.
The RVWRMP Project Support Unit, Dadeldhura has contracted three FM radios of Dadeldhura to air key messages on the key steps to avoid corona virus.
RVWRMP is very proud of the commitment of staff to complete the scheme works within the agreement period, working with needy communities, and demonstrating faith and inspiration with the project working approach. Similarly, the presence of RVWRMP personnel in their duty station in such a critical time encourages the Rural Municipalities/Municipalities and communities, and shows the commitment of the project and staff for the rural people. Together we are working better livelihoods through water resources management, even in this difficult situation.