International nonprofits cut aid pledge to Nepal amid Covid-19 pandemicThey have committed Rs 21.62 billion for the new fiscal compared to Rs 24.79 billion in the previous.
Prithvi Man Shrestha
With countries around the world grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, international non-governmental agencies have reduced their aid pledge for the new fiscal compared to the previous year.
International non-governmental organisations have pledged aid worth Rs 21.62 billion for 2020-21, around 13 percent less than their pledge for 2019-2020, which stood at Rs 24.79 billion, said the Ministry of Finance in its Statement of Technical and other Assistance.
“A reduced aid commitment from international NGOs reflect the impacts of the global economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Shiva Kumar Basnet, spokesperson for the Social Welfare Council, the regulator of non-government organisations.
In addition to bilateral and multilateral assistance from donor communities, the country has been receiving significant resources through international non-governmental organisations that work in various sectors such as water, sanitation, education and health through service delivery, advocacy, and programmes to raise awareness and strengthen accountability.
Basnet said the council was seeing a far less number of foreign NGOs come to the office to apply for approval for their programmes compared to the previous years. “Based on the programmes that have received approval from the council, we can project a downturn in aid flow from foreign NGOs at least until the next fiscal year,” said Basnet.
The report comes as Covid-19 hammers the global economy, which is projected to plunge into the deepest recession since the Great Depression. This will impact resources that would have gone to international NGOs, stakeholders said.
Representatives of international NGOs also see the prospect of reduced aid. “Now the landscape of foreign aid availability has changed after the pandemic,” said Achyut Luitel, chair of the Association of International NGOs in Nepal. “Major donor agencies are postponing fresh calls for international NGOs to submit proposals for the funding and we’re not sure whether they will make calls again this year.”
He said reduced funding could hurt foreign NGOs that work in fields other than health. “There can be a general reluctance on the part of many donor countries to contribute to overseas development efforts at a time when their own people are facing economic hardship due to the pandemic,” he said.
The United Kingdom government recently decided to merge its foreign and commonwealth office and the Department for International Development (DfID). DfID was one of the key contributors to the international NGOs besides providing aid to the national governments.
Luitel said there is uncertainty about how the UK government would provide funds to the international NGOs under the new arrangement.
According to the Development Cooperation Report released by the Ministry of Finance, the share of foreign NGOs in the total official development assistance of donors stands at 12 percent in the last fiscal year 2018-19.
International nongovernmental organisations had disbursed $215 million to various projects in Nepal in 2018-19, which was almost double of what they had spent—$110 million—in the previous fiscal year. Such a momentum in foreign aid was shattered due to the pandemic, according to the representatives of foreign NGOs and council officials.
Basnet said that the council used to approve programmes of many international NGOs for additional funding and additional works before the pandemic. “The situation has now changed, and international NGOs are even struggling to bring in money they had earlier committed,” he said.
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.