Domestic and international NGOs start diverting funds towards anti-Covid 19 programmesSocial Welfare Council has allowed the non-governmental sector to procure medical equipment and run relief programmes.
Prithivi Man Shrestha
Domestic and international non-governmental organisations have started to divert their resources towards Covid-19 prevention and preparedness programmes.
On April 2, the Social Welfare Council had allowed them to divert 20 percent of their programme budget to carry out activities for the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus.
In response to the interest shown by the non-governmental sector to contribute to the fight against Covid 19, the council had allowed domestica and foreign NGOs to transfer funds in the areas such as procurement of medical equipment and relief programmes.
“Around half a dozen domestic and as many international NGOs have already got approval to divert a certain portion of their programme budget,” Shiva Kumar Basnet, spokesperson for the council, told the Post. “Several other organisations have also sought permission to divert their budget to combat Covid-19.”
World Vision International, Shanti Volunteer Association, Nepal, Shanti Leprahilfe, FAIRMED and Shapla Neer are among the international NGOs to secure the council’s approval.
“They have got the approval to import health equipment and to carry out relief works,” Durga Prasad Bhattarai, information officer at the council, told the Post.
Meanwhile, PLAN International Nepal has submitted a proposal committing nearly Rs100 million to anti-Covid 19 programmes.
“The proposal is in the process of approval,” Bhattarai said.
In the policy framework for the foreign NGOs to contribute to Nepal’s fight against Covid 19 introduced in early April, organisations were also encouraged to find new sources of funding.
The government has also facilitated the domestic and foreign NGOs to bring medical equipment and goods, such as testing kits, N-95 masks, personal protective equipment, by exempting taxes.
Organisations that import medical equipment are only charged one percent custom duty.
According to Yagya Dhungel, joint secretary at the Finance Ministry, if any NGO procures medical goods meant for Covid 19 and hands them over to the government, such domestic or foreign NGO gets tax exemptions.
“Based on the recommendation of the Department of Health Services, they can import the medical equipment and hand them over to the department to receive the tax exemption facility,” Dhungel said.
The government on March 29 had decided to provide this facility until April 27, according to the Finance Ministry.
Earlier, they were supposed to pay 13 percent value added tax and 15-20 percent customs duty depending on medical goods, the ministry said.
Before the government decided to seek the help of the NGO sector, 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.
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.