Joanna Lumley, Michael Palin, scientists, academics, Everest climbers, Gurkhas, and other friends of Nepal join call for urgent medical aid.
Kathmandu: Leading figures including Joanna Lumley, Sir Michael Palin and Sir Chris Bonington today called upon the British government to urgently send lifesaving oxygen equipment and medical supplies to Nepal. The Nepali health system has collapsed due to a massive surge in Covid-19 infections. For over a week hospitals have been turning away patients due to lack of beds, and people have died for lack of oxygen.
Sir Chris Bonington said, “I have seen for myself how much the hill people from Nepal have done to help Britain over the years and how much we owe them. I do hope that our government can help them in their desperate plight.”
Among those signing the open letter to the foreign secretary Dominic Raab are leading British public health specialists and vaccine researchers including Sir Jeremy Farrar, Sarah Gilbert, Andrew Pollard, Nicholas White, Adrian Hill, Peter Horby, Philippe Guérin, Alain Townsend, and Sandy Douglas.
According to the United Nations this week, “COVID-19 infections are surging at an unprecedented rate in Nepal. The country of roughly 29 million people . . . has the highest effective rate of reproduction in the world . . . With a much weaker health system than neighbouring India’s, Nepal is now at a critical juncture. Hospitals in major cities are at capacity and have had to turn patients away. . . [there are] also by critical shortages in human resources and essential commodities such as oxygen.”
Captain Ram Bahadur Limbu, one of only five living recipients of the Victoria Cross, signed the letter from his home in Kathmandu. He was awarded Britain’s highest military decoration while serving with the 10th Gurkha Rifles in Indonesia in 1965.
Acting now will make the difference of life or death for thousands of people. Nepal is one of Britain’s oldest friends in the world, a friendship represented by generations of Gurkha soldiers and mountaineers.
General The Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, a former Chief of Defence Staff, joined the appeal. General Sir Sam Cowan, former Colonel Commandant of the Brigade of Gurkhas and Chairman of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, said, “The people of Nepal are suffering badly, and the poorest the most. Our historic links with the country through Gurkha recruitment go back over 200 years. It’s time for the UK to step up to the mark to make a major contribution to ease the suffering. We cannot do less. Time is of the essence and we need significant action now. We are already behind what other countries with less historic ties are doing.”
Fifty-six leading UK figures including writers, actors, mountaineers and soldiers signed the open letter calling on the British government to act now. The letter, which is open for public signatures on Change.org, calls upon “the UK government to urgently respond to the Covid-19 crisis in Nepal by airlifting critical medical supplies including oxygen plants and equipment.”
“Acting now will make the difference of life or death for thousands of people. Nepal is one of Britain’s oldest friends in the world, a friendship represented by generations of Gurkha soldiers and mountaineers,” the letter reads. “We must come to Nepal’s aid now.”
Sir Michael Palin wrote, “I am very happy to lend my support for the letter. They are very special people facing, once again, an extreme test of survival, and I hope we can do our best for them.”
People who want to lend their support to the campaign can do so by signing the Change.org petition letter and by contacting their MP to call for medical aid to Nepal.
Rory Bremmer, the impressionist and comedian, said, “Whilst the devastating crisis in India has rightly caught the attention of the world, its neighbour Nepal is similarly overwhelmed, its healthcare system unable to cope on its own. Britain should stand by its long standing friend and ally in its hour of need and provide urgent support.”
The Nepali government and health officials say physical supplies including oxygen plants, cylinders, oxygen concentrators and related equipment, as well as life saving vaccines and therapeutic drugs, are desperately needed. Due to the Covid emergency in neighbouring India, Nepal has not been able to buy and import equipment, medicines and vaccines needed to combat Covid-19 as it did earlier in the pandemic. The government of Nepal has shared details of the most urgent priorities with other governments, including Britain.
The open letter reads: “The Nepali Health Ministry predicts that by 15 July the number of active cases will reach 800,000, resulting in ten critically ill patients for every ICU bed. Only 7% of Nepal’s population has received a dose of vaccine. The potential loss of life and economic devastation over the coming months is staggering, and preventable.”
Other signatories include the actor Nickolas Grace, production designer James Acheson, and Joanna Lumley, who successfully campaigned for ex-Gurkhas to settle in the UK. The Everest summiteer and TV personality Ben Fogle, said, “I am deeply saddened and worried about the worsening health crisis in Nepal, a country and people I know and love. A special, kind people who need our help.”
Rebecca Stevens, the first British woman to climb Mt. Everest, said, “In a very long relationship between Nepal and Britain, Gurkhas and British army, Sherpas and mountaineers, the Nepalese have alway given with full heart, often with their lives. It is absolutely our turn and our duty to do what we can to help in their hour of need . . . We must act decisively, immediately.”
Kenton Cool, a mountaineer and Everest guide who was participating in the current climbing season, said, “Being in Nepal myself at the present time I have seen first hand the extent of this second wave. People are desperate. Any and all help would make an impact. Having experienced the generosity of the Nepali people over many decades it pains me to see this nation struggle once again.”
Other signatories include the DJ Paul Oakenfold, who was recently at Everest base camp, and the chefs Asma Khan and Santosh Shah – the recent Master Chef finalist. Jeremy Jack Thomas, producer of The Last Emperor, said “Nepal is reeling from a second wave. This magical landlocked country needs all the support it can get from our government, as it has been a friend to Britain not only in our armies but culturally.”
Numerous UK-based scholars joined the campaign, including Michael Hutt, emeritus professor of Himalayan studies at SOAS, David Gellner, professor of social anthropology at Oxford University, Mike Searle, professor of earth sciences at Oxford University, and Diwakar Acharya, professor of Eastern religions and ethics at Oxford University.
Surya Subedi, professor of international law at the University of Leeds, said, “”Nepal is a traditional ally of the UK. I hope the UK Government will provide every assistance possible for the people of Nepal in this hour of need.”
David Lascelles, the film producer and 8th Earl of Harwood, said, “I’m distressed to hear of the devastation being caused by the second deadly wave of Covid-19 in Nepal. Nepal is home to some of the toughest and most resilient people in the world but this will test even their endurance to the limit. We must do everything we can to help our many friends there in their time of need.”
The mountaineers, broadcasters, film makers, soldiers and authors who have signed the open letter, are now joined by many others at change.org. They are united in calling upon the British government to send urgently needed oxygen equipment and other supplies to Nepal. “The UK and Nepal have a unique, centuries-old relationship. We must stand by one of our oldest friends,” the letter reads. “Time is of the essence.”