Kathmandu city has no exact details of its poor citizens to distribute food reliefThe lockdown has greatly affected the families living in squatter shanties, but the city spokesperson claims not all of them need help.
Nearly two weeks into the lockdown and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City has not yet completed collecting the details of the poor and the vulnerable people who are in a dire need of an emergency relief package.
Last week, the city office announced a food package for the families affected by the lockdown enforced by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The relief was to be distributed to the families of daily wage workers and the poor in all 32 wards of the city.
However, the city office has not yet figured out the number of families who need the aid, nor the effective way to distribute the food items.
“We are yet to figure out the exact number of people who need help. The lack of data has hindered us from distributing the relief items,” Ishwor Man Dangol, the city’s spokesperson, told the Post. “What little relief we have distributed so far has gone through ward offices who have been working in coordination with their local clubs and political parties.”
Last week, a board meeting of the city had released funds to all its wards for the relief programme. The funds were issued based on the area of the wards: Rs 400,000 for large ones, Rs 300,000 for wards with moderate size, and Rs 200,000 for smaller wards.
Buddha Manandhar, head of finance department at the city office, said the city has already released Rs 10.4 million for the relief programme.
The lockdown has mostly affected the families of squatters living along the city's river banks.
When the Post asked Dangol what the city office was doing to help the squatter population, he said that all families living in squatter shanties did not need help.
“Some of these squatters are richer than us. We are trying to reach out to those families in real need,” Dangol said.
Most of the people living in shanties along the Bagmati river bank do not agree with Dangol though.
“Why would we live near the stinking river if we were well off? We have been confined in our shacks for the past 11 days. How are we going to cope,” Ramesh Nepali, a daily-wage mason, told the Post. Nepali and his family have been living in the squatter settlement of Sinamangal for the past three decades.
Nepali said his family had already run out of the food they had purchased before the lockdown. They are being fed by the local Marwadi community.
“It was only yesterday that the people from the ward officials visited our place and distributed 2kg of rice and half a litre of cooking oil to each family,” Nepali said.
Many of the food items mentioned on the relief list, including pulses, beaten rice, salt and potatoes, were not distributed in the settlement.
“We were told that some of the food items on the list were in short supply,” Nepali said.
Based on the city’s relief guidelines, each family will get rice, pulses, cooking oil, beaten rice, salt and potatoes. The amount of food materials are to be determined according to the size of each family.
“We have been rationing our food because we have limited provisions to go through the lockdown. It is tough for the families with small children. If the situation continues, many of us could die of starvation. The state has done little to ease our trouble in this time of crisis,” Laxmi Chhetri, a 38-year-old mother of two, told the Post.
Chhetri, who lives in a squatter settlement in Sankhamul, worked as a housemaid for a family in Baneshwor until the lockdown.
She said the people from the ward office had visited her settlement on the 10th day of the lockdown and distributed 5kg of rice, 1kg of pulses and 1 litre of cooking oil.
Charan Prasai, a human rights activist, said the slower the city authority acts, the tougher the lives of the poor families are going to get.
“The city office should have collected the details of the poor families by the first week of the lockdown. Who will be responsible if the people start dying due to starvation?” Prasai told the Post. “The concerned local governments are supposed to protect their citizens in times of crisis. These poor families have no recourse right now. If they get out, they will be detained by the police and if they remain at home, there is no food to eat.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 27, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,684,795 people with 352,225 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 150,793 with 4,344 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.