Jeewan Silwal, Programme Coordinator for Christian Aid partner FOCUS- Nepal, provides his personal account of working through the pandemic, and his fears and his passion to support the most vulnerable communities.
Our small team were busy with our community groups supporting agriculture and irrigation projects when we first heard about the Covid-19 virus in February 2020. We found out about the situation in China, and that it was rapidly spreading in other countries.
In March, as the virus continued to spread around the globe, we started to follow safety measures in our work. We knew we had to continue to support the people we serve. We started to prepare banners, leaflets and flyers about Covid-19 to help us create awareness about the virus.
Rumours about Nepal going into lockdown started to spread. In preparation, my team quickly visited our project communities to advise them individually about Covid-19. We did this for almost a week until the time the lockdown was announced.
Being forced to stay inside my home did not stop my work. On a daily basis I would contact communities through text messages and phone calls to keep sharing accurate information with them about the virus.
There was a lot of panic at times with conflicting information coming through the TV, radio, news articles, online and social media. The unknown and highly contagious nature of the virus scared everyone with few people daring to leave their homes, even for the essentials.
Hope is sometimes all we have to pull us through these difficult times.
In co-ordination with Christian Aid and rural municipal offices, we planned a Covid-19 response in Dhading, north eastern Nepal, focusing on providing food and health items, such as soap and hand washing stations, to vulnerable communities. Restrictions on movement did make these plans difficult, but our passion to reach these communities kept us going.
There was certainly a sense of anxiety in the team as Covid cases were rising in the country, with there now being one confirmed case in Dhading too.
On 7th May, we started distributing food and health packages. We took all possible safety measures, using masks, gloves, sanitisers for ourselves and the people who came to receive the packages. We installed hand washing stations, put up banners and maintained physical distancing procedures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
It was difficult for our own families to let us go out to do this important work. Initially my wife was reluctant to let me as she was worried about the risks. After many discussions she came around to the fact that I cannot move back from supporting people, especially during such an emergency. She has been a great source of encouragement for me to accomplish this work.
Having completed our first phase of our response, I feel proud at what we achieved.
Whatever difficulties I have faced it has been worth it for the people whose lives I have touched.