NEPAL: Covid-19 and governance, the collapse of a conscience

Nepal on 13 May 2021 reported 8,842 new Coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the nationwide infection tally to 431,191. Nepal on 12 May reported 9,238 new cases and 168 Covid-19 related fatalities. Similarly, 9,317 new cases and 225 Covid-19 related deaths were recorded on 11 May and 9,127 new cases and 139 Covid-19 related deaths were reported on 10 May. It reported 214 Covid-19-related fatalities on 13 May, and the countrywide death toll has now reached 4,466. The number of active cases stands at 105,207. These are the statistics provided by the Government and picked up from the media. Without any doubt, one can easily guess that exact numbers are much more than this.

The situation has drastically changed overnight in Nepal. The health care system is on the verge of collapse. Patients and their family members are begging for help. They are begging for beds, and running around from hospital to hospital seeking it. But very few are getting it. The Covid-19 infected are laying around hospital gates seeking treatment. And, most of them only need oxygen.

Nepalese are dying due to the lack of oxygen. Seriously. Dying due to the lack of oxygen. There is something deeply wrong here. Doctors are giving up and pleading for help. They are using social media, asking for the Government to provide oxygen. Many doctors and nurses who are themselves infected have been forgetting about their conditions and are treating Covid-19 patients. They are the true angels for some handfuls of lucky Nepalese who were are to get a bed at hospitals, who are able to receive the basic facility of getting oxygen.

And coming back to the State. Where is the Government? Where is the governance facility and mechanism? Looking at the current dance of death, and the lack of governance has been exposed to its fullest.

What was the Government doing for the last one year? The answer is that it was playing musical chairs. It was embroiled into dirty politics and trying to hold on to its position. The K.P. Sharma led Government was busy claiming that the Covid-19 pandemic was merely a Viral influenza and sneeze, and advised to drink lukewarm turmeric water, as a domestic remedy.

Instead of building oxygen plants, instead of investing in increasing hospital beds, instead of building makeshift hospitals, instead of making isolation centres at the local level, and instead of purchasing and securing Covid-19 vaccines, the Government spent time and money on building view towers, making idols of Hindu gods and goddesses, telling Lord Pashupati will save us all.

What is this? Good governance or the height of stupidity? When people are dying due to the lack of oxygen and hospital beds, the Ministry of Health has been busy issuing statements warning doctors and nurses not to scare the public by telling that they do not have any further capacity to admit new patients and that they do not have any oxygen left. This is the arrogance of the Government which pretends that all is well in Nepal and that there is no Covid-19 emergency.

So videos and pictures of Covid-19 deaths and cries and pleadings for help must be dramas played by common Nepalese who do not have access to anything.

And surprisingly, the civil society who were very vocal and active a year ago are very much silent after a year. They may be helpless and trying to protect themselves and their families first. Or they may be trying to protect themselves from the wrath of the State as they know that K.P. Oli, a Nepalese version of Nero is enjoying the deaths and still claiming that all is well and that everything is under control. It is time for the civil society to wake up, advocate, protest and overthrow the authoritarian K.P. Sharma Oli who is not the Prime Minister, but merely a propagandist. To borrow the famous words by Arundhati Roy, a famous author, this is a crime against humanity. And it is true, when people are dying because of the lack of oxygen, it is indeed a crime against humanity, and maybe more than that. The only one responsible is the K.P. Sharma Oli Government. He must be overthrown, and punished for its crimes.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-009-2021
Countries : Nepal,
Issues : Administration of justice, Civil and Political Rights, Democracy, Migrant workers, Right to food, Right to health, Right to life,