With the second wave of COVID-19 raging in the country, many people have started showing the signs of fear, confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty. Every day, infection rate is soaring and COVID-related fatalities are also increasing exponentially as many health facilities are facing the bed crunch. COVID fear among the people in Nepal has increased also because of the havoc the virus has wrecked in the neighboring India, which has utterly failed in containing the second wave of the virus.
After the outbreak of the virus in the country last year, the government concerted all its efforts in containing the virus spread in the country and strengthening the health system of the country, but while doing so the sustainable development goals, especially, Goal-3, which is related to good health and wellbeing, has been ignored. In fact, many individuals and organizations working in the field of public health feel that this pandemic may be a blessing in the disguise to realize the these goals and putting in place a robust health system eliminating all sorts of health disparities in the country.
One among such individuals is Bhawana Gurung, who launched an initiative — Sankat ma Saathi. She sees the light of hope for a better future even amidst the crisis and believes that the government should be able to take this as an opportunity rather than a crisis.
Recalling the initial days of the COVID outbreak in the country, Guurung said, “When Nepal imposed the nationwide lockdown in March last year, I was very hopeful that it would be able to contain the spread of the virus. But to my dismay, it failed. And it kept on failing over and over again. As a result, many people got infected and many succumbed to the virus. The pandemic spread beyond the control severely impacting the entire health system in the country.”
Bhawana Gurung sees the light of hope for better future even amidst the crisis and believes that the government should be able to take this as an opportunity rather than crisis.
When asked about the roles of individuals in the time of crisis, she said that no efforts towards reviving the health system were little — every individual effort counts. Sharing about what inspired her to come up with the initiave, Sankanta ma Sathi she said, “I along with my friend Asha initiated the Sankatma Sathi Podcast cum Radio Programme which helps the COVID-19 affected communities with reliable and life-saving information.
The urge to start Sankatma Sathi saw the people becoming the victims of the rumors, hoaxes, and misinformation related to the pandemic. With the motto of serving COVID-19 affected communities, this podcast has been continuously advocating for equal health facilities bringing voices of the rural, disenfranchised population, returnee migrants, women, and marginalized communities who are vulnerable to rumors and misinformation.
Gurung is also equally concerned about the SDGs and the challenges the country is facing in realizing these goals in the wake of the pandemic.
“A year before the COVID-19 pandemic, countries like Nepal were making notable progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including the goals related to Good Health and Well-being. Nepal’s steps towards reducing the child mortality rate and increasing life expectancy were praised by many and the country was heading on the right track to eliminate measles, malaria, and kala-azar among others” she added.
Gurung said that the pandemic gravely impacted all these achievements.
“Not only this, the health inequalities have become apparent. These disparities are prevalent among the individuals from minority ethnic groups/ disenfranchised groups, poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, urban and rurally deprived locations, and other vulnerable groups,” she informed.
She stressed that being a democratic country, the government should take guardianship ensuring strategic steps to respond to the pandemic but at the same time, it’s everybody’s duty in responding to COVID-19 responsibly.
“This way, we will revive the once ravaged health system and step towards achieving sustainable development goals,” she added.