By Narendra Hamal and Astha Joshi, DCA in Nepal
In recent months, Nepal has seen an increasing number of COVID-19 cases due to community transmission. The Far-west region of Nepal in particular has documented a steady rise of COVID-19 cases, caused by the inflow of returnee migrants from the Indian border. To add to this, torrential rainfall since August, has caused flooding in the area, adding pressure to response efforts that have already been stretched thin with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
In Kailali district, a DCA working area, also identified as a COVID-19 hotspot, the flood has effected 6657 households across 4 municipalities of Bhajani, Janaki, Tikapur, and Joshipur. An initial rapid assessment conducted by the Nepal Red Cross Society reported a total 2901 houses as completely damaged and 2482 partially damaged.
Since the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, DCA through its local partners, FAYA and DWRF, has been actively engaged in the response work in the municipalities of Bhajani, Ward no. 8 and Kailari in coordination with the local government. Based on the beneficiary list provided by the local government and police through the IRA, DCA has provided support to 344 HHs in Bhajani and 150 HHs in Kailari.
“Our goal for the response was focused on providing immediate food materials, personal sanitation and hygiene kits- dignity kits for women, and also some amount of money for rebuilding. We utilized the digital cash transfer in coordination with IME to ensure a dignified and efficient delivery of CASH for the beneficiaries,” stated Dinesh Gurung, Program Manager, Humanitarian Response and Disaster Risk Reduction, DCA.
CASH programming is an important component of DCA’s humanitarian response. The need for CASH based programming has never been more relevant than in the current climate.
Each household were supported with NPR 9000 cash support through the IME digital mobile transfer service. “Prior to digital CASH transfer, we had initiated cash support to the beneficiaries by calling them to collection centers or via home to home visits. However, considering the current COVID-19 situation, we decided on using the IME digital transfer service as most of the beneficiaries have a cell phone. The beneficiaries also had the option to collect the CASH through IME remit services,” stated Dinesh Gurung. While NPR 5000 of the CASH was for necessities, the remaining NPR 4000 was conditional support for shelter renovation.
Furthermore, SMS banking was seen as a very efficient method of money transfer. Based on DCA’s Post Distribution Monitoring Report (PDM), out of the total survey respondents, 95% stated that they received messages through mobile SMS service. This indicates a significant number of mobile phone users and an opportunity to move the CASH programming further in the future, not just for humanitarian emergency response projects but also for other development projects.
Through the cash support, beneficiaries were found to have purchased agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, besides household food necessities. “After I received cash support, I was able to purchase food on a daily basis, and also seeds and fertilizers so that I can start growing vegetables in my plot which will be enough for my family in the coming months,” informed Amuna Devi Jaisi, resident from Bhajani. Like Amuna, many villagers who received cash support opted to buy seeds and fertilizers besides basic food supplies to ensure they had the means to produce food in the coming months.
Food CASH provided to households was an added bonus for pregnant women and struggling farmers. Sanu Pandey, 20 from Khallatole stated, “It is impossible for pregnant women like me to move around to look for food supplies. With the food Cash, I could purchase food supplies easily through the vendors, and I felt reassured about my own heath, as well as, the health of my unborn baby.” Additionally, the local government also supported NPR 2000 in Bhajani for women with special needs, such as pregnancy.
82% of the respondents surveyed for the PDM report stated that the amount provided was enough for their basic needs. The three most important expenditure were found to be for medical costs (58%) food (90%) and household repair (48%).
DCA’s response ensures that the most vulnerable and marginalized groups have access to the required support. As per the DCA PDM report, out of the total reached households, 4% included households led by people with disability, 43% by elderly, 9% by single women (widowed), and 45% household included family members with chronic disease and food insecurity.
Farmers like Tulsiram Tharu who had have very close to having zero income, owing to the lockdown induced by the pandemic, felt a sense of relief with the food packages, “With the lockdown, I have not been able to go to work in my small field. I had nothing to sell in the market. I have been asking neighbors for food and I have also borrowed money from the moneylender. The food package will last me and my family a month.”
The lockdown and flood have increased the vulnerability of women and girls, especially during their menstruation. As part of the effort, DCA and its local partner received a list of 100 girls and women who were provide with dignity kits. These kits were provided through the voucher system for health and shelter renovation. Each kit contained all necessary essentials for personal hygiene which ensured that women and girls had a dignified menstruation.
Besides CASH support, DCA with its local partner also provided support for WASH facilities such has pedal operated handwashing station in 9 ward offices and 4 health institutions. “In addition to handwashing facilities, disinfectant and liquid hand wash was also provided to reduce the probability of transmission. This also complements our life-line radio programs that have been airing PSAs and information about COVID-19 prevention during the flood,” stated Dinesh Gurung.
Through the COVID-19 and flood response, DCA has been able to reach 500 HHs.