No Alternative to Helping the State.
Due to the new variant of Covid-19, the pandemic situation has been seen in some countries of South Asia including Nepal and India. The number of infected people and its mortality rate has recently increased in Nepal as its impact has increased in India. The government has issued curfew in various areas to break the chain of Covid. The injunction, which started on April 29, has been extended for the second and third time till May 27. All sorts of strategies have been sought, made and implemented to use the resources and means of the state to fight against the epidemic spread and to reduce its effects throughout the country. But its impact has not diminished. All the hospitals in the country are full of infected people. There are reports of no beds in hospitals, lack of oxygen, lack of ICU and ventilators. Due to which hundreds of infected people are forced to lose their lives due to lack of treatment.
In this pandemic, there has been a concern among the general people about the role of civil society organizations (CSOs) which are working in the social sector in the country. This article examines the current role of CSOs during the pandemic.
Bhagiram Chaudhary – Executive Director, Society for Environment Education Development (SEED) Dang
Following the curfew announced by the state after the catastrophic situation was created due to Covid, our organization has postponed all field activities. Consecrating ourselves to the campaign to save ourselves and save others, we have decided to make alternative plans. We started working from home unless there is urgent.
All field based activities and physical group meetings with stakeholders including community level Reflect Center, Monitoring Group, Mothers Group, Youth Network, Children’s Club have been stopped. We continued contacting with these groups through telephone, SMS, virtual meeting and coordination and provided help to them when they are in dire need. Now we have started public awareness activities such as exchanging important information on personal security and precautions through phone, SMS and social media about coronavirus. In addition to monitoring and precluding about the various forms of discrimination such as child marriage, sexual violence and rape that may occur in the society during this crisis, we have launched public awareness campaigns in newspapers, Facebook, TV and radio programs, online news and live news to emphasize the continuous exchange of information that will create awareness among the people and in the society.
Nowadays all of our programs are intended to minimize the human damage caused by the coronavirus and to prevent it. In order to prevent this, we felt that the Government of Nepal needs to provide all possible assistance to the local governments by managing all the necessary materials and tools including quarantine, isolation, oxygen, bedroom, doctor, medicine and food as soon as possible, and developing peaceful advocacy, coordination and cooperation.
In this context, the state has the prime duty to prevent the life of the people. We will draw attention of the local government, state government and central government MPs for the prevention of coronavirus. Together with the other CSOs, we will create pressure and advocate for special management and necessary assistance in the health care service of the patients as soon as possible.
Shanti Chaudhary – Chairperson, Freed Kamalari Development Forum ( FKDF) Dang
“There is no alternative for the CSOs than to helping the government” As we do not have separate programs at this time, we have focused to provide information, coordination and support to the community. We have been disseminating the messages urging people to stay safe and at home to abide by the rules imposed by the state. At present, the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic are getting worse, and there is no way to break the rules of the state. For the general people, it is important to stay at home and be safe as you may be at risk of infection. And there is no alternative to it. We, being responsible for more than 12,000 of our member freed kamalaries, have most worry to make the government accountable to save the lives of them from COVID-19 and possible hunger pandemic. For this we are networking with the other CSOs to advocate with the government
Local governments and concerned authorities are working to help hospitals reduce the risk of Covid infection. We also have to support the government as the responsible civil society. Therefore, we are discussing with the partner organizations on what can be done to help them.
Krishna Chaudhary – Chairman, Society Welfare Action Nepal (SWAN Nepal) Dang
We cannot dare to go out of the house at such a time without personal safety. We stopped going to the field, community meeting, and started communicating and teaching everything from home over the phone. Even though no one is distributing rice, salt, oil and pulses like before in the first wave of COVID-19, everyone is managing their livelihood from their small stocking of food for few days. e main thing is that there is a need to mobilize support to tackle with the lack of bed, oxygen, ICU and ventilation in the hospitals, and we are also discussing in our team about how we can be involved in this support. . In Dang alone, 17 people are losing their lives in a single day. Therefore, we have emphasized on more coordination and cooperation to prevent from this critical situation from causing further human losses. People have now worry about what they need to do to survive. The main thing is that the project budgets cannot be run without the approval of the donors, so it is necessary to discuss this issue with the partner organizations and donors through virtual meetings.
We now have three tiers of the governments. The first priority for the government should be to save the people. People have to be saved now, physical development work can be done next year. Therefore, in my opinion, the current local bodies, provincial governments and central governments, and civil society organizations should all work together to save the lives of the people. But local bodies are confused due to clear plan, lack of support from the provincial and the federal government, and lack of reserved fund for this. . So we have no choice but to be together with the government to reduce the impact of the deadly Covid in the community and prevent infection. We request all the CSOs and the government to join hands in cooperation and coordination.
Tej Prasad Acharya – Chairman, Siddhartha Social Development Center (SSDC), Kapilvastu
The contamination of Covid-19 is also on the rise in Kapilvastu district. This infection is bringing more complications. At this time, the decision of the District Level Covid-19 Crisis Management Center dated 12 may 2021 has extended the time limit of the injunction till 12 noon on Monday 24 May. As of 11 of May, the number of active infected people in the district has reached 1,248. As of Wednesday, 102 people have lost their lives. The pressure of corona infections at the district’s temporary Corona Hospital has increased intensely. Serious patients are losing their lives due to lack of ICU, medical supplies and oxygen in the hospital.
In the first year of the coronavirus epidemic, Siddhartha Social Development Center provided food relief assistance, quarantine management and distribution of essential health items, health information materials, public awareness radio programs, assistance and protection to children at risk, helpline assistance, psychosocial counseling, medical treatment assistance, coordination and cooperation with local government. We carried out distribution of essential health items and assistance programs too.
This year also, various works of coordination and cooperation are being carried out with the local governments. Banganga Municipal Level Disaster Management Committee is involved in the management of essential health items required by the municipalities. We have started an initiative of establishing Oxygen Bank at Banganga to distribute oxygen free of cost to the local hospitals for the treatment of infected patients.
Out organization has been working on various issues including Corona Special Public Awareness Radio Program, Information Message Broadcasting, and Assistance to Children at Risk, Child Protection, Sexual Violence, Psychosocial Counseling Services and Support under the Partnership Program in Lumbini Province. We have also planned the urgent support programs that are to be done at the community level during the Corona epidemic and submitted them to the local partner organizations.
Pradeep Shah- Executive Director, Indreni Rural Development Center (IRDC) Nepal, Kapilvastu
IRDC Nepal is working in Vijayanagar Rural Municipality, Shivaraj and Buddhabhumi Municipality of Kapilvastu district. We have postponed the regular activities of our project after the government issued a restraining order to control the second wave of deadly pandemic. We are coordinating with the concerned bodies through phone conversation, email, internet and zoom.
We have been working to coordinate with local bodies, organizations, land rights forums, economic, socio-cultural rights networks, and various active organizations, in addition to documenting to review the policy, rules and programs required from home to combat the epidemic of Covid-19 at the time of the prohibition order.
Together with other CSOs, we are drafting a memorandum through virtual meetings to influence the budgets of the federal and provincial government’s gender friendly. The local community are listening the Katuwal radio program of Jagaran Media Centre on Covid-19 to get relevant information.
Mohan Acharya: Executive Director, Justice and Rights Institution Nepal (JuRI Nepal), Lalitpur
At this time, it is everyone’s duty to abide by the prohibitions imposed by the government. So some of our work, meetings, coordination and cooperation, all the work is being done from home through virtual medium.
Similarly, we have sent a letter to the Ministry of Finance through the National Network of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to focus on health, to reduce the impact and risk of Covid-19, and to focus most of the upcoming budget programs on health. Also, as the budget is being prepared in Lumbini, we are preparing to hold a virtual meeting and submit a letter of attention to Lumbini.
All field work is suspended. We have been doing media monitoring online. Similarly, by coordinating with other organizations and networks, we are engaging in discussions on the issue of mobilizing, advocating and cooperating with the concerned bodies. We have focused on advocacy work to focus our attention on the news that the marginalized community has been deprived of basic services such as food due to the lack of basic health care during the Covid period. In this situation, our plans have been made to save ourselves, our families and society. While various government bodies and hospitals are raising their hands, we have embraced the role of civil society in ensuring the right to life of the citizens.
Shraddha Thapa: Executive Director, Fair Trade Group Nepal (FTG-Nepal)
It is time to stay safe. We are conducting virtual meetings, planning and coordinating with stakeholders from home. Last Saturday, we celebrated World Clean Entrepreneurs Day with a virtual program. Training in the field for the target group has been stopped due to Covid-19. Circumstances have changed the way we work. We have emphasized the means of communication on phone, email and virtual media. Even though the skill-based training with participants done in field are stopped, the field work will not be affected. We will continue to be active in advocating with partner organizations to increase the pace of work. The work of small entrepreneurs is stalled, they are ready to discuss and lobby with the government about the problems they are facing and the solutions.
Sunita Gurung: Program Manager, IM Swedish Development Partner, Nepal
We have changed the working approach of IM and started working from home to exchange information and coordinate with the partners and the stakeholders. We are assessing this situation, as our partners, communities and ourselves are at risk. All partner organizations are planning to analyze and manage the risk.
Now we are holding timely discussions and meetings on lobbying and advocacy that our partner organizations can do through the use of information technology and digital media. As a member of Association of International Non-Governmental Organizations (AIN), we are coordinating with other INGOs to deal with this situation. We are coordinating with food, social and economic recovery, health, and protection cluster which had already been active in Nepal during this disaster situation.
The Social Welfare Council has also already requested all I/NGOs to deviate their fund to support relief during this pandemic situation. We are coordinating with the head office about how we can support the partner organization and the communities in this difficult situation. We will support the target vulnerable communities during recovery phase in psychosocial counseling, income generation to the vulnerable including returnee migrants.
Kamala Bishwakarma- President, Jagaran Media Center
All our work related to the media is operational. None of the work of media advocacy has been stopped. We have focused on the role of the state, and the role of civil society in the difficult situation of Covid in the Katuwal radio program. We are warning the three-tier of governments about their role through radio programs.
All of our work is now focused on the communication campaign against Covid-19. We have worked with the media to make the community aware of the high risk and danger of Covid-19 and to comply with the rules announced by the state. We are constantly updating information about Covid on Covid User News Portal and jagaranmedia.com–an online portal.
We are engaged in continuous discussions with partner organizations in informing the Dalit and marginalized communities. We are in constant coordination and cooperation with the civic organizations. We are working as a bridge to solve the problems of the people with the state seeking the role of the parliamentarians, holding discussions and taking precautions. We are constantly connecting civil society, networks with journalists and our cooperation.
Finally, the civil society organizations need to focus their projects or programs to boost the efforts of the government. We will do media advocacy on this issue.