What is the current situation of COVID infection in Nepal?

(Graph: courtesy Reuters May 27)

Although the daily cases have been declining for the past few days, Nepal still records more than 7,800 covid cases and over a 150 deaths daily. The prohibitory order has been in effect for the last 4 weeks, however a significant decrease in the infection and death rate has not been seen. Hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients and most of the facilities are running out of ICU, ventilators and oxygen. 

What is the current situation of Pharping?

Total Infection since May 1 till May 27: 381 (Including PCR and Antigen tests)
Total Death: 6

Although it is very hard to grasp the daily infection, the official data provided by the Municipality shows that total infection from May 1 to May 27 is 381 and the death toll is 6. Considering the number of population, the infection rate and the death rate is even higher than the national average. This suggests that the infection has spread at the community level and more deaths will occur in future. To contain the spread, the municipality went on a total lockdown from May 22.

What is the most urgent issue?

(People are told to bring their own oxygen cylinder, Photo courtesy of CNN, May 11)

An acute shortage of oxygen is the most serious issue faced by Nepal. Several reports suggest that the majority of the patients are dying because of a lack of oxygen. The government first announced that they had sufficient oxygen, but lacked enough oxygen cylinders to fill. Thus, a majority of the hospitals asked the patients to bring their own cylinders before admission. This created a panic and friends and family members of patients frantically moved to secure oxygen cylinders. However, after a scarcity of oxygen cylinders, the government announced that there is a huge gap between supply and demand for medical oxygen. Now people were not only forced to seek cylinders but also medical oxygen on their own as well.

Public health experts say that the medical oxygen shortage in Nepal was due to negligence by both the government and the hospitals. The ministry of health of Nepal had a policy that any hospital with more than 15 beds must have their own oxygen plants. However, a majority of hospitals operated without this facility and heavily relied on private oxygen plants when in need. This violation was never monitored by the ministry, thus resulting in the present situation.

What are our responses?

Immediate Response:

Built an Isolation ward with oxygen facility

We have donated NRS 500,000 (USD 4,280) to the municipality to build an isolation center at Chalnakhel primary health center. This isolation center has 15 beds with oxygen cylinders. The center provides necessary medicine and food as well. However, the biggest incentive for infected persons to come to the facility has been availability of oxygen cylinders.

(An isolation ward has been built inside the Chalnakhel primary health center)

Since its establishment on May 10, 34 patients, majority of whom needed oxygen, have used the facility. To date, 26 have been recovered and returned to their homes. This isolation facility not only saved lives of the patients but also helped contain the infection in the community.

(From left: Mayor, chief administration officer and vice-mayor of the municipality inspecting the isolation center before the opening)

Established an oxygen fund to manage oxygen cylinder

Rukmini Foundation donated NRS 3,0000 (USD 2,570) each to the municipality and Manmohan community hospital to set up an “Oxygen Fund” to procure necessary oxygen cylinders and manage the oxygen cylinders according to the needs of the community. These cylinders were delivered to villages when necessary. This fund is also being utilized to transport the patients to the different hospitals and isolation centers.

Long-term Response

Setting up an oxygen plant in Manmohan community hospital

Rukmini foundation  donated NRS 2,100,000 (USD 17,405) to set up an oxygen plant which has a capacity to produce 300 liters of medical oxygen per day. This amount of oxygen will not only be sufficient for the hospital, it can also provide oxygen for rural areas of southern Kathmandu and some parts of Makwanpur District. This plant is being set up with the technical support from Patan Hospital, a renowned government hospital of Kathmandu. The same team will also provide technical support for managing the plant. The cost of the plant is expected to be close to NRS 7,000,000 (USD 60,000) and both community members and local government are raising the money. Thus, this venture is truly a Public People Partnership (PPP).

(Prototype of proposed oxygen plant)

What are the voices of communities?

(Mandira getting ready to work at the Primary Health Center)

I was tested positive for COVID 19 but I had only mild symptoms so I stayed home and worked in the field. However, one night suddenly I experienced a breathing problem and one of my neighbors said that I should go to the newly built isolation center at Chalnakhel Primary Health Center. I came to the center and I received oxygen and then slowly I felt better. I was surprised to find food and drinks at the center. Since it was built inside the hospital, I was also able to get medicine easily. Many people stay at home even if they tested positive and spread the disease to the family and then to the community.  So, I encourage other people who tested positive to come to the facility.


MS. N.T (name hidden for privacy) female patient who used the isolation facility

Communities coming together

This situation has reminded us a little bit about the 2015 earthquakes and how we were supported by a global family. We are very grateful to our kind donors all over the world who time and again continue to support the people of Pharping to overcome various challenges including natural disasters and now a pandemic. We are also grateful to our local community members for supporting this cause. This is a very difficult time as so many people have lost their loved ones throughout the world. Despite all of the upheaval globally, we are very heartened to see that communities near and far are still coming together to help one another. We continue to believe that together we can overcome this adversity, and we must because this is truly a global issue which needs a global solution. 

If you would like to support our emergency response, please consider supporting us.

Thank you!

About Nabin Aryal

Dr. Nabin Aryal led the foundation’s work in Nepal from the inception till April 2015. He is now serving as a special adviser from his new home in Myanmar where he works with the US and Nepal Teams to provide strategic guidance for the foundation. He received a PhD in Economics from Hitotsubashi University and has been managing NGO programs in underdeveloped areas in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka and has extensive experience in grassroots development efforts.
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