The Project in Nepal
For three months from June through mid-September, a project has been under way in Nepal to support persons affected by Hansen’s disease whose lives have been impacted by the spread of the novel coronavirus. The project is taking place in the Terai, a lowland region in the south of Nepal bordering India—the country with the third-highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States and Brazil.
In Nepal, the gap between rich and poor is said to be particularly pronounced in the Terai, and living conditions there are challenging. With many Nepalese who lost their jobs in India due to the pandemic passing through the Terai on their way home and in some cases staying there, it has become the most prevalent part of the country for the coronavirus.
The project, which aims to provide communities of persons affected by Hansen’s disease with comprehensive support, has three pillars: distribution of emergency relief supplies; advocacy with government and stakeholders; and dissemination of information. This article focuses on the distribution of relief supplies.
Distribution of Emergency Relief Supplies
The project has been taking place with the support of Nepal Leprosy Trust, which has been working with self-help groups (SHGs) of persons affected by leprosy and persons with disabilities to distribute food supplies such as rice, beans and cooking oil, and hygiene products such as soap and masks, to approximately 600 SHG members and their families most in need of assistance. The food is enough for a family of four to live on for a month. Some of the beneficiaries were in dire need of immediate assistance after losing their jobs due to the pandemic, and the relief supplies have been a lifeline.
When these supplies were distributed to the designated beneficiaries, however, this attracted the interest of nearby residents, creating confusion. Each time, staff would have to explain the project to the wider community and gain their understanding.
On one occasion, when supplies were being distributed in Mahottari District in July, a woman affected by leprosy who was not listed as a beneficiary showed up and pleaded for help. Because supplies were limited, it was not possible to assist her. However, recipients of supplies who witnessed the scene had a discussion and each decided to give the woman a portion of the rice they had received. In the end, she was able to go home with 30kgs of rice.
The Spirit of Self-Help and Mutual Assistance
To overcome the unprecedented situation caused by the novel coronavirus, it is important that government support is available in the form of public services, and also that international organizations and NGOs reach out to those in need. At the same time, as seen in Mahottari District in July when SHG members came to the aid of the woman in need, a spirit of self-help and mutual assistance is also essential for helping communities overcome difficulties caused by the pandemic.
A ward chairman who saw the project in action was impressed and made a donation; this made it possible to distribute additional relief supplies. The donation was the result of SHG members wanting to do something through their own efforts and helping each other out. Because of their attitude and the response it triggered, the hope is these activities will be sustainable.
Check out Nepal Leprosy Trust’s Facebook page for day-to-day updates.
Read our August 4 post for more about this project.
Read about our COVID-19 response here.