Wednesday, 28 Jul 2021
It was a cold morning, the first chill of winter making itself known by the icy breeze blowing down from the mountains. The bright sun warmed the back of those who were preparing to distribute food and other essential items to those in need in Helambu, a region 80 kilometres from Kathmandu. They were setting up an accessible distribution centre so that people in need could come and collect essential items, while also ensuring that those attending remained socially distanced and COVID-safe.
This is one of the responses CBM took during the first wave of COVID-19 that swept through Nepal in 2020. Swift and harsh lockdowns left many in precarious situations – day labourers, those forced to return from jobs abroad, as well as their families who relied on their remittances. Among the hardest hit were those already marginalised and at-risk, including people with disabilities or chronic illnesses, the elderly and single parent households. To add to the strain of reduced work opportunities, the price of essential hygiene items such as masks, hand sanitiser and soap had soared in the local markets as people had rushed to buy enough to protect themselves and their families. Like what was witnessed in Australia, access was harder for people with disabilities and the elderly, who often could not battle the crowds to access their share. Families who already struggled to access enough food each week faced an uncertain future.
One person who benefited was 88-year-old Mr Singaman. Aided by his cane, Mr Singaman arrived at the distribution centre around midday – the 10-minute walk from his home to the site left him shaking and tired. He was quickly supported by a volunteer to wash his hands with soap and water and provided with a seat and a mask. Despite having a large family whom they are very proud of, Mr Singaman and his wife receive little support from their children as they are busy providing for their own families. “It has been a difficult time for us – the crops that we are growing are not ripened to harvest yet and we didn’t have any stocks of grains with us,” said Mr Singaman. Without a regular source of income, Mr Singaman was apprehensive about the future.
Stacks of rice bags, piles of pre-prepared packets of grocery items, and quantities of hygiene kits including masks and sanitiser with other essential items covered the site, ready to be distributed. Mr Singaman and others were alerted the day before and told when to come- so that only small numbers of people attended at once. Home delivery was also provided for those who couldn’t get there personally.
As a member of the local youth club collected Mr Singaman’s goods to carry home for him, Mr Singaman shared his gratitude, saying ‘May God bless all of these kind hearts who came here to help us in our need’.
With a second wave of COVID-19 devastating Nepal and its health system in recent months, the work is far from over. CBM Australia continues to support development projects strengthening livelihoods in the area complemented by COVID-19 specific initiatives.
You can help! Make a donation today. Your donation will go towards a broad range of initiatives that support all our communities to better face the risk of COVID-19.
(A volunteer assists Mr Singaman at the distribution centre after receiving his essential food items and sanitation and hygiene kit.)