19 Mar AHF COVID-19 latest information
Updated 2 April 2020
Our world has undergone enormous change. We have now all experienced immense uncertainty and vulnerability – and we still are of course. We know this is the experience for each and every one of you, just as it is the case for women, men and children across the Himalaya.
With inadequate health systems and limited access to health services, tourism stopped, borders closed and ordinary operations grinding to a standstill, the impact on the poor communities and children we assist will be deep and wide. Our people need us now more than ever.
We know from past emergencies such as the Nepal Earthquakes and the Global Financial Crisis, that with your support, our AHF family is a resilient and resourceful one. Our important health, education and environmental programs have already helped to build resilience, capacity and opportunities for remote Himalayan families, to better position them to withstand threats and serious challenges such as poverty and natural disasters. This was proven by the difference we made after the events of 2015, as early responders worked together to return children to safe, new or rebuilt classrooms (87 of them!), among other practical, vital initiatives. This important work has only been possible with your support, for which the people of the Himalaya are so grateful, thank you.
We are totally committed to maintaining our promised practical assistance to the people of the Himalaya – “getting what is needed most, to those who need it most”.
THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON OUR PARTNERS AND PROGRAMS
We are in frequent contact with our partners in Nepal, Bhutan and the Indian Himalaya to understand how COVID-19 is affecting them, our programs, and the communities we partner with.
While case numbers remain low, concern is growing about the frequency of testing for the virus in Nepal. As Nepal lacks adequate resources to tackle an outbreak of the disease, preventative measures are critical.
- Our programs already have sanitation and hygiene education activities in place (see video above)
- Nepal is in an official lockdown for (starting 24 March)
- Essential goods – hand sanitiser, soap, masks, cooking gas, petrol and medicines – are in short supply and costs are already rising.
The pandemic will deeply impact household income and livelihoods in the mountain communities. The Spring climbing season is cancelled, all tourist visas are on hold and, as work is grinding to a standstill in many countries to which Nepalis have migrated, remittances (which contribute nearly 30% of Nepal’s gross domestic product) are likely to decrease significantly.
- Bhutan immediately closed its borders to foreigners (“until further notice”) following the first diagnosis on 6 March. All Bhutanese returning from other countries will be in quarantine for 14 days.
- Schools have been closed indefinitely. We are working with RENEW to ascertain how the scholarship students will be affected, especially those in the extremely remote and isolated communities.
- The Indian Government announced a 21-day full national lockdown on March 24 (total bans on leaving home other than for the most essential services).
- In Ladakh specifically, our partner staff movements are restricted. We will work closely with our partner to ensure program activities will resume as soon as possible.
- In Kalimpong, our program preserving the Tibetan performing arts is on hold as gatherings of people are not allowed. In the meantime, we are working with our partner Gangjong Doeghar to strengthen their organisation.
Many of you have asked what you can do to help…
- If you are in a position to give at this critical time, we welcome any donation you’re able to make to ensure we can continue to meet our promises and help get what is needed most, to those who need it most.
- We encourage you to please be advocates for the Himalayan communities you love – gently remind people not to forget the most vulnerable families and children (who are out of school, abused or forced to work).
- Please share our work on Facebook and Instagram and especially our upcoming appeals and invitations for people to get involved.
We will keep you updated regularly on how this pandemic continues to affect the incredible people of the Himalaya.
Stay safe and well.
CEO – Australian Himalayan Foundation