New research by Mercy Corps and Practical Action shows gaps in preparation
With the monsoon season arriving, a new report from Practical Action and Mercy Corps highlights the increased vulnerability to Coronavirus of flood prone communities in Nepal.
In communities surveyed in western Nepal, over half of the flood evacuation sites don’t have handwashing facilities while 80 per cent lack quarantine facilities. Because of the growing pandemic and lockdown, hunger and poverty are also increasing.
With more than 40 years’ experience of operating in Nepal, Practical Action knows there are solutions to the problems highlighted in the report. And both organisations are calling for investment by donors and governments in order to implement additional Coronavirus-related disaster preparedness this year.
The report, “Avoiding a perfect storm: COVID-19 and floods in Nepal”, surveyed Community Disaster Management Committees in 46 flood prone communities across 5 districts in Nepal through phone interviews about their plans to respond to floods and COVID-19, warns that with expected flooding during monsoon season, Coronavirus will exacerbate the situation for many vulnerable communities in Nepal.
Disaster Management Committees report that:
- 60 per cent of communities already report food shortages, with marginalized groups, such as the Dalit population, especially facing difficulties;
- Access to health care is limited; one in five communities surveyed are typically cut off from health services during floods and landslides in monsoon season;
- Only 17 per cent of communities have quarantine facilities, and 22 per cent of these facilities are at risk from flooding and landslides due to being in flood-prone areas and not having alternative sites;
- 43 per cent of flood evacuation sites lack handwashing facilities, and 57 per cent do not have hand soap in stock.
Report co-author, Bikram Rana from Practical Action in Nepal, said:
“The situation is highly concerning, but solutions do exist and we know they work.
“Donors and wealthy governments should increase funding to build and maintain handwashing facilities in evacuation sites and distribute hand soap ahead of the monsoon season. We also need immediate funding for the construction of additional quarantine and isolation facilities with adequate drinking water and sanitation facilities, as up to 600,000 Nepali migrants are expected to return from overseas in the coming months.
“Now more than ever, we must invest in building community resilience to climate chaos shocks like more intense storms that lead to floods, and we must do this alongside helping people fight the Coronavirus pandemic”.
Laxmi Ghartimagar, Community Disaster Management Committee member in Nepal’s Kailai District says: “The monsoon season is an extremely difficult time for our community and it will be very challenging to respond to floods and safely evacuate people as we cannot ensure distancing.”
The report’s author, Yoko Okura, Regional Program and Advocacy Manager, Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, Mercy Corps says:
“Coronavirus is disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, many of whom are already on the front lines of the climate crisis. The pandemic makes it infinitely harder for families to cope with the upcoming monsoon season, with communities already reporting challenges in meeting basic needs such as food and water. We know from previous flooding during monsoon season that conditions will only get worse. We are calling for international help in assisting local governments in Nepal to support the most vulnerable communities as they prepare for impending disasters.”