Nepal’s Lockdown Hits Hard On Marginalized Communities And Migrant Workers

Lucky Sherpa,
Former MP and Former Ambassador For Australia and New Zealand

Kathmandu,Apr 17 : The government of Nepal has decided to extend the ongoing nationwide lockdown, which is in its 22nd day, until April 27. A Cabinet meeting on Tuesday decided on the extension to stem the spread of coronavirus, which has so far infected 16 people in Nepal, including three Indians.

The coronavirus pandemic represents a serious threat to the entire world, but that threat takes on a different shape in each country. Furthermore, the capacity of societies to respond and to endure the disruption and costs of social distancing vary greatly. The benefits of each policy must be carefully weighed against the economic costs and risks imposed on a particular society. . Policies imposed in rich countries to fight the coronavirus could have adverse effects in low-income nations—potentially endangering more lives than they save.

Efforts by the Nepal government to impose a lockdown already appear to have had significant negative consequences for the most vulnerable members of its population. Workers from the informal sector specially marginalized communities tell a story of impending poverty, evictions, and hunger, as their incomes and work opportunities have been curtailed. Nepali Migrant workers, now without access to employment, are left without food or shelter in foreign land.

A few countries in the world have enforced complete lockdown. Most countries have preferred a partial lockdown where essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations are permitted to remain open. This approach is prevalent in the more developed markets. Several emerging and developing countries have opted for a stronger form of lockdown.

A lockdown without concrete welfare system in place will surely push the economic hardship marginalized communities beyond the roof. The impact of the coronavirus will be negligible when compared to the consequences of hunger and other social voices. Rather than being afraid of COVID-19, marginalized communities will have to go on an empty stomach, no medical facilities for other ailments, and no basic amenities. This will lead to a breakdown of laws and order as people will engage in all sorts of shady things to survive.

Lucky Sherpa

Most affected vulnerable groups during lockdown include :

1.Daily wage Laborer:
The sufferings and stories of most of the laborers stranded at Kathmandu are similar. Everyone wants to leave Kathmandu and returns to their homes. Everyday we are witnessing the sufferings and hearing misery, it feels like Kathmandu and the Federal government is totally indifferent to and inconsiderate about these laborers and their sufferings. Amidst this uncertainty, instead of encouraging them
to stay in Kathmandu managing them some daily essentials like food, Police officials are charging batons on them.

2.Migrant Workers:
There are an estimated 500,000 Nepali migrants in Malaysia alone, the most popular labor destination, followed by Qatar with over 400,000, Saudi Arabia with 334,451 and the United Arab Emirates with 224,905, according to the Report. There have been numerous reports of migrant workers languishing in foreign lands as countries move to impose increasingly strict lockdowns, closing all businesses and restricting movement. Migrants have lost jobs and are running out of money, with no means to return home. The success of a prolonged lockdown can only be effective if essential supplies can be made accessible or delivered to vulnerable households.

If the appropriate mechanisms are not in place to address the concerns of the vulnerable segment the short-term measures put in place to arrest the spread of Covid-19 may not be successful over the medium to long term. In light of this, Nepal may need to gradually decrease the phase of lockdown by tightening the security on its border area and move to an intensive testing-based approach to tackle Covid-19 in the days ahead. Imposing the restrictions without addressing the needs of citizens entitled to return home denies their basic rights. Such restrictions are less likely to be effective, if they force people to live in crowded conditions, or evade controls instead of cooperating with quarantine requirements.

Therefore I urge and call upon the Nepal government to take immediate action on dealing the lockdown midst of covid-19.

a. Government must effective measures to maintain social and economic activities during covid-19.

b. Urgent need for systematic cooperation among three tiers of governments channel in distributing and managing the health facilities among the needy citizens.

c. Announce the front line special volunteering mechanisms for those who wants to volunteer managing covid-19 pandemic in Nepal.

d. Government must widen up its boundary not limiting to a few individuals and system dealing with covid-19. Ensure the participation of Researcher, Experts, and Medical professionals in covid-19 dealing team.

e. Nepal government must act immediately towards the issues and concerns of Nepali migrant workers and students who are stranded at foreign Land. It should also work with other governments to ensure the protection of its citizens abroad.

f. Nepal Government must announce a relief package to daily wage labors and poor populations identified by planning commission.

j. Rapid Test measures should be taken as one of the immediate action against covid_19 by mobilizing volunteers and civil societies. This can help policymakers to reevaluate the government’s strategy.

k. Lockdown restrictions should be gradually open on a step by step basis tightening the border area. It may provide a certain degree of ease in the daily life of lockdown-suffered citizens.

World bank in its twice a year regional update stated that Amid the mounting human toll and global economic fallout triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, South Asian governments must ramp up action to curb the health emergency, protect their people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and set the stage now for fast economic recovery.

The authorities in Nepal should take all necessary steps to ensure that everyone has access to food and medical care, and that the poor and marginalized are not mistreated or stigmatized. Nepal government must be responsibility to protect its people from the outbreak should not come at the cost of human rights violations.

Nepal Government urgently needs to take a comprehensive review of its vulnerable sectors and put together a targeted strategy with its limited resources to support a rapid recovery.

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