Government allows foreign NGOs to divert 20 percent of their project budget in Covid 19 preparedness and responseThe Association of International NGOs says it had requested the government to allow more flexible spending due to the severity of the crisis.
Prithvi Man Shrestha
The government has allowed the international non-governmental organisations to divert 20 percent of their programme budget to carry out activities for the prevention and control of Covid 19.
Responding to the interest of the international NGOs to contribute to the efforts against the deadly disease, the Social Welfare Council, which regulates the non-governmental sector, introduced a policy framework for the foreign NGOs to carry out Covid-19 preparedness and response activities.
“International NGOs are requested to deviate 20 percent of the approved budget mentioned in the existing project agreements to the preparedness and response to Covid 19 immediately,” a letter sent by the council to the Association of International NGOs on Thursday reads. “Amendment proposals should be submitted for deviating the fund within one week from the date of the issuance of this policy framework for the period of two months.”
The council has said that it would approve the amendment proposals within three days of submission.
The foreign NGOs are required to submit their progress reports to the council after the completion of work.
The council’s approval for budget deviation is far less than what the foeign INGOs had sought while the project implementation period is also shorter.
In a letter to the council on March 31, the Association of International NGOs had requested the council to approve in principle for deviation of funds up to 100 percent for the next four to six months to work towards Covid-19 preparedness and response programmes according to the priority set by the government.
They had also sought approval to deviate funds up to 100 percent to other projects like education and human rights to meet the needs of communities, where such projects are implemented in the approval of local and provincial governments.
Officials at the council said that they didn’t think it necessary to allow the deviation of the entire programme budget of foreign NGOs to the Covid 19 preparedness and response.
“The annual fund commitment of foreign NGOs is around Rs26 billion and 20 percent of that amount is a considerable amount to spend in two months,” Durga Prasad Bhattarai, information officer at the council, told the Post.
He, however, said that the duration of the programme could be extended if the crisis continued.
Representatives of international NGOs are of the view that there should be minimum restriction for fund deviation in times of global crisis.
“There is a severe risk from the Covid 19 and opening the door to resource mobilisation as much as possible would be a better option,” Achyut Luitel, president of the Association of International NGOs, told the Post. “Some international NGOs could have much flexible funds which they could divert to fight the pandemic.”
To allay the concern raised by the association, the council has said that it would encourage fresh international fund collection from the international NGOs to fight against Covid 19.
“Fresh collection of funds could entirely be spent on the activities to combat the spread of coronavirus,” Bhattarai said.
The council has prioritised the areas where the foreign NGOs could spend the deviated funds.
Top priority has been given to facilitating the availability of medical equipment to the government and the health facilities.
Providing food and monetary relief to the vulnerable population in coordination with the local governments and conducting awareness campaigns regarding Covid-19 have also been prioritised.
Earlier, the international NGOs had proposed to work in multiple areas, including strengthening the system of contact tracing, setting up hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients, providing medical equipment and safety gear to health workers, relief distribution to the vulnerable population, education and sanitation.
Luitel, the president of the Association of International NGOs, said that as the government was facing difficulty in contact tracing and preparing enough hospital beds in case of spike in Covid 19 cases, involving the international NGOs in these areas could ease the government’s burden.
“In fact, we have felt that the federal government is not so keen to involve NGOs sector extensively in the fight against Covid 19. But, provincial and local governments are more welcoming to the roles of the NGO sector,” he told the Post.
The international NGOs had urged the government to involve them in anti-Covid 19 drive in early March, but the latter had not responded at the time, according to the council officials.
It was only last week that the Department of Health Services formally requested the international NGOs to provide protective gear and medical equipment for health workers at the frontline of the fight against Covid-19.
Public health experts say that contributions from the domestic and foreign NGOs could be valuable right now, because of their nationwide presence and the works they carry out at the grassroots level.
There are more than 100,000 registered domestic NGOs and around 250 foreign NGOs affiliated with the council.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 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 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 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.