COVID 19 at Happy Kids Center- Update #2
To our amazing friends and supporters,
To say the last week has been a difficult one for all of us at Happy Kids Center would be a dramatic understatement. However, the response we have seen from our supporters around the world has provided a renewed sense of hope, reaffirming the power of human compassion and resilience in this battle against a virus that sometimes feels insurmountable.
When I last updated our community on March 19th, I (Ellen Carney) was uneasy but felt confident in the plan our team had developed to continue to provide support to our community. At that time Nepal had only 1 confirmed case of Covid19, but only 1 testing center across the country. After speaking to friends and community members in Bhaktapur, my concerns only grew. It felt as though the attitude and energy in Bhaktapur was still several weeks behind where we are now in the United States. People were nervous, but continued to joke that “Nepali people are strong and resilient and can withstand a silly virus.” While the sentiment may be true, and Nepali people are in fact incredibly resilient, this line of thinking scared me to my core. Many of the people in Bhaktapur were not prepared for the gravity of their situation and did not recognize just how vulnerable our community at Happy Kids Center is.
Nepal has poor health-care services and lacks medical infrastructure, staff, and equipment; it is considered poorly prepared to handle a large scale disease outbreak according to the World Health Organization. On March 24th Nepal announced a lockdown of the Kathmandu Valley, including an order demanding people do not leave their homes, effective the following day. When I received the news I spent several hours trying to call the team, all of whom were busy collecting the food, medicine and other essentials their family would need. No one was sure of what this lockdown would look like, and that uncertainty continues, but we knew one thing: our original plan for supporting the community would no longer be feasible.
With this, it became time for Plan B.
We are not equipped to fight this virus medically, but fortunately, we have a network of supporters who were able to step up and ensure that, at the very least, everyone in our community has enough food to eat and clean water to drink through this crisis.
Food shortages were among our greatest concerns. Nepal relies on India and China for the vast majority of food and other supplies in Nepal. India has already closed its borders and dramatically reduced exports in order to ensure their own people would have enough to eat. Supply chains in China have slowed nearly to a halt even as the nation begins to heal from its own battle with the virus. This means food has quickly become unaffordable for many and our community has largely been unable to stock up on even the most essential basics.
Fortunately, we partnered with a local grocer (Sunil Dyola) to purchase bulk supplies of rice, lentils, beans, and other non-perishable foods items. With his help, we were able to purchase an amount that should last most families in our community for up to one month. Each family was also supplied safe drinking water, hand sanitizer and gloves in case they needed (and are permitted) to leave their homes for some reason.
One of the greatest concerns for myself and the rest of our team was new mothers. In the weeks before Covid19 became an evident and inevitable threat, three new mothers came to us asking for help purchasing baby formula. It became apparent that these new mothers, all of whom are under 19 years old and with babies less than 6 months, are suffering from severe malnutrition, making them unable to lactate. We began a rigorous nutrition regimen with the guidance of a nutritionist from Siddhi Memorial Women and Children’s Hospital, but unfortunately due to the current circumstances, we will not be able to continue as planned. With the funds donated through our online giving campaign, we have provided these new mothers with baby formula to last them several weeks.
Finally, many of you have reached out asking about the status of the four children who were reported to have high fevers. As of now, all of the children are in stable condition. They have not been hospitalized as, right now, hospitals in Nepal pose more of a threat than safety. Testing is not yet available and many potentially infected people are flocking to hospitals only to be turned away, making hospitals an extremely risky place to be. However, because of the relationship we have with Siddhi Memorial Hospital, if their symptoms worsen we know our kids will receive the best possible care we can hope for from the amazing doctors and nurses at that facility.
With this in mind, we want to assure our supporters that we will be providing healthcare to the extent we are able for the duration of this crisis. This means, if one of our Happy Kids or their parents is diagnosed with Covid19 and needs to be hospitalized, we will do our best to cover the costs. While the cost of living and healthcare at large is much lower in Nepal, the cost of keeping someone on a ventilator or hospitalized for extended periods of time will be extremely steep for our small organization. We ask you to consider continuing to donate as you are able to ensure we can save the lives of any community member who contracts the Covid19 virus.
As a reminder, the families we work with live in dense communities, packed into “houses” infested with mold. They rely on burning plastic to stay warm in the evenings, to cook their meals and warm their tea. Many have severe respiratory issues already just due to these conditions. Even those who are strong enough to survive a virus-like Covid19 are far more likely to face food crises like the mothers I mentioned above. This does not even take into account the deep cultural complexities that would keep our community from receiving help from the government or other locally-based NGOs due to their caste or ethnicity.
Finally, I want to say a final thank you to all those who have already donated to our campaign, shared our posts, or supported our organization in whatever way you can. We cannot stress enough how far even $1 goes and the life-changing impact your support can have for our community.