WHY MORE INVESTMENT IN HEALTH AND WASH?

Paper author: 
HAMI and Oxfam
Paper publication date: 
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Government of Nepal declared nationwide lockdown from 24 March to 21 July 2020 aiming at
containing the spread of COVID-19 in Nepal. Efforts targeting at increasing public health awareness,
procurement of essential health supplies and building capacity of health workers have been continued
since the initial phase of the pandemic. Necessary policies, guidelines and plans are endorsed to
manage effective and efficient health system by ensuring uninterrupted access to health services to
the public. These endorsed documents have prioritised the rights of the vulnerable groups including
women, children, persons with disability and poor people.
The National Action Plan rolled out by the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizeni has
focused on programmes related to providing training and developing skills for enhancing economic
status of poor women and women affected by COVID-19 crisis. National Human Right Commission
(NHRC) has designed checklists for monitoring the quarantine and isolation centres during COVID-
19ii, primarily focusing on availability of health services to women and children, safe drinking
water and sanitation facility in quarantine and isolation centres and monitoring the discriminatory
behaviour against marginalised and vulnerable people during their stay in the quarantines and
isolations.
Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for COVID-19 Pandemic instructs the local governments to
emphasise the needs of vulnerable groups including women and children, pregnant and lactating
mothers, elderly persons and persons with disability in the time of COVID-19 pandemic.iii Family
Welfare Division, Department of Health Services urges the health facilities to ensure reproductive
health services, immunisation and nutrition services during the pandemic by following the Infection
Prevention and Control, and Personal Protective Equipment guidelines.iv
Since early 2020, COVID-19 has caused a global health crisis. The governments from across the world,
and even in Nepal, consider lockdown as one of the preventive measures containing the spread
of virus; however, it has resulted in socio-economic crisis in most of the countries. Particularly,
prolonged lockdown imposed by the government has resulted in financial hardship mainly in the
families who are from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Increased unemployment has further
risked the health and education, social safety and protection of poor and marginalised women,
women providing care for families, children, old age people and persons with disabilities. Their
familial source of income has significantly reduced due to shutdown of businesses and restriction
in movement because of lockdown even for wages-works. It has added to the worse condition of
families who depend on daily wages.
This study was carried out in three palikas of Kapilbastu, Surkhet and Rautahat districts between the
last week of June and the first week of July 2020 to assess the existing situation of the availability
of health and WASH services and their effect on public, particularly women, children, and persons
with disability; identify gaps in the availability of health services; document them and provide
recommendations to the governments at all levels to take necessary steps to address the gaps and
tackle challenges.
The impact of COVID-19 on delivery of health and WASH services is disproportionate with high
impact on women from marginalised and vulnerable communities. Despite their specific health
needs, women are able to receive compromised health services even during this pandemic with
reduction in access to antenatal, delivery and postnatal services, vaccination and family planning
services.