Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Nepse closes below psychological 3,000 points

The share market closed below psychological points of 3000 today due to selling pressure.

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) index dropped by 69.05 points to close at 2,975.84 points.

After the central bank's directives to restrict on margin type lending to upto Rs 120 million -- from overall financial system -- for an individual, the share investors are forced to sell their holdings to comply with it.

Though, the share market witnessed drop in Nepse index, some Rs 13.26 billion worth of stakes changing hands as all the sectors led by development bank, hydropower, finance and ‘others’ sub-groups fell more than 3 per cent each.

Arun Valley Hydropower Development Company Ltd and Himalayan Distillery Ltd were the most actively traded scrips today, as they witnessed a turnover of over Rs 1 billion and almost Rs 500 million, respectively. Api Power, Nepal Bank and Goodwill Finance followed suit with turnovers of around Rs 30 million, each, according to the Nepse.

South Korea to provide oxygen concentrators worth $604,500

The South Korean envoy Park Chong-suk handed over some 94 units of oxygen concentrators to health minister Umesh Shrestha today.

Likewise, Koica-Kaan donated three units of oxygen concentrators to Methinkot Hospital today.

The Republic of Korea -- popularly known as South Korea -- has also prepared plans to provide oxygen concentrators worth $604,500 (a total 378 Units of oxygen concentrators) to Nepal via Koica. The handover was carried out to support Nepal’s Covid-19 responses through Koica’s development projects in Nepal along with the donation from Koica Alumni Association of Nepal (KAAN), according to a press note issued by the South Korean Embassy in Kathmandu. "The remaining 281 units of oxygen concentrators will be handed over to Nepal by the end of September 2021."

Koica decided to support these oxygen concentrators based on the request of the Health Ministry due to acute shortage of medical oxygen supply during the second wave of Covid-19 in Nepal. "It is a nine liters per minute capacity high flow oxygen concentrator manufactured in the USA," the press note reads, adding that out of the 378 oxygen concentrators, Koica plans to provide 280 units to Health Ministry, three units to Methinkot Hospital through KAAN, some 15 units to Nepal Korea Friendship Municipality Hospital, some 10 units to Trishuli Hospital, some 25 units to Kathmandu University, some 25 units to Dhulikhel Hospital, some 15 units to Tikapur Hospital and some 5 units to Mugu Hospital."

The South Korean ambassador -- at the handover ceremony -- said that Korea has always considered Nepal as one of its close friends and has always extended its supportive hands to Nepal. "Korea will continue its support to various sectors for Nepal’s development," he said, expressing his hope that each of these equipment will be dispatched to the hospitals where they are most needed and effectively utilised.

Likewise, minister Shrestha thanked the ambassador and the government of Republic of Korea for such meaningful support. He stressed that the support from Korea shall be distributed very carefully to hospitals with a shortage of medical oxygen supply.

South Korea, through Koica, has been supporting Nepal since the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Koica has already provided medical essentials worth $726,000 -- including more than 57,000 complete sets of RT PCR test kits and Covid-19 protection materials like PPE, mask, sanitizer, surgical gloves, thermometers to various hospitals in need of support -- for Nepal’s Covid-19 response since 2020.

Monday, August 30, 2021

CAAN witnesses significant drop revenue

 Covid-19 pandemic has hit the revenue of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) hard in the past two years.

According to CAAN’s annual progress report of the fiscal year 2020-21, its income dropped by 43 per cent compared to the projected income of Rs 10.544 billion of the previous year. "Its income went down by 43 per cent in the first year of Covid-19 outbreak and the figure increased to 72 per cent the following year," the report reads, adding that the Covid-19 outbreak since the beginning of 2020 had adversely hit projects and programmes funded by the CAAN  in the last fiscal year.

According to the report, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) witnessed a significant fall in the number of air passengers since the outbreak of the Covid-19. "The infection has taken its toll the most on air transport," the report reads, adding that the year 2020 witnessed a 73.27 per cent fall in air passengers in international flights compared to 2019. "In 2019, over 4.1 million passengers took international flights as opposed to over 1.1 million in 2020."

Similarly, more than 1.2 million passengers took domestic flights in 2020 compared to over 3.1 million in 2019. "In 2020 the number of domestic passengers drop by 59.46 per cent than in 2019."

The report also reads that construction of many airport infrastructure development projects with investments of the government and development partners have also been hit hard due to Covid-19 and prohibition orders.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Government, World Bank concludes portfolio performance review

The joint portfolio review of the government and the World Bank concluded yesterday covering 27 ongoing World Bank-financed projects with a net commitment of $3.27 billion.

The concluding meeting was chaired by finance secretary Madhu Kumar Marasini and World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos in the presence of finance minister Janardan Sharma and vice chair of National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Biswo Poudel.

Highlighting the perspective of general citizens on government projects, finance minister Sharma instructed the completion of projects within the stipulated time while maintaining quality. He also urged to utilize scientific tools and techniques for project implementation.

The concluding meeting was held at the Finance Ministry with a hybrid model consisting of in-person as well as virtual presence considering the health protocol. The meeting discussed on issues that remain unresolved at the line ministry level and of strategic importance which required high level attention.

The meeting also discussed the impacts of Covid-19 on project implementation that had led to delays. In addition, other generic implementation issues like weak capacity in project management especially at provincial and local levels, frequent turnover of civil servants, procurement delays, safeguard related issues, and slow disbursement were discussed.

Focusing on coordinated and joint efforts for delivering development impacts, finance secretary Marasini requested the participants to build a common understanding to improve the overall implementation environment of the projects.

The annual stocktaking exercise is organised to review the performance of ongoing projects, review implementation challenges, and identify measures to resolve such challenges collaboratively. Sectoral meetings that were organised with the relevant line ministries under the chair of respective secretaries discussed in depth key results achieved under each project, underlying issues and challenges, and agreed actions to resolve such issues.

The World Bank’s current project portfolio in Nepal covers energy, transport, earthquake housing reconstruction, education, health, social protection, environment, urban development, water and irrigation, agriculture and livestock, and public financial management sectors.

"While the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the pace of development works in Nepal, we are encouraged by the government’s efforts to strengthen implementation and deliver results amid the pandemic’s challenges," World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos. "The pandemic has also provided an opportunity to recalibrate our approach to improve project implementation and capital spending, whereby our projects deliver timely results for the benefit of Nepalis."

The portfolio review was attended by secretaries, joint secretaries, and director generals from related ministries and departments, National Planning Commission (NPC), Financial Comptroller General Office (FCGO), and representatives from the World Bank and project teams.

Sri Lankan Airlines to connect Colombo and Kathmandu with direct flights from Tuesday

Sri Lankan Airlines is connecting Colombo with Kathmandu with its direct flights from Tuesday.

Sri Lankan ambassador to Nepal Himalee Arunatilaka tweeted that Sri Lankan Airlines is starting direct flights between Colombo and Kathmandu starting August 31. "To all those friends in Nepal, who have been asking me when direct flights will starts; it's happening on 31 August 2021," she tweeted today.

The airline flies twice a week connecting the island nation to the Himalayan nation. The direct flight between the two countries is expected to boost tourism and enhance people-to-people contact between the two countries. The direct flight is expected to promote Buddhist pilgrimage between the two countries once the Covid-19 situation becomes normal. "The starting fare begins from $599 one-way," according to the Zenith Travels, the general sales agent of the airline in Kathmandu.

The two capitals of the South Asian nations have been connected after a hiatus of four decades though this is the first time a Sri Lankan Airlines is connecting Colombo with Kathmandu with its direct commercial flights.

The then Royal Nepal Airlines (RNAC) and current Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) used to operate regular direct flights on Kathmandu-Colombo-Kathmandu sector some four decades ago during the 1980s. But the flights were suspended as they were not commercially viable.

Similarly, Himalaya Airlines also used to connect Kathmandu with Colombo for a brief period in 2016, and this too stopped as the flights were not commercially viable due to low passenger volume. In March 2015, Mihin Lanka also planned to start direct flights between Colombo and Kathmandu but the proposed flights could not start.

In 2019 -- before the Covid-19 pandemic -- Nepal received 1.2 million international tourists, and out of the total, some 55,869 Sri Lankan tourists visited Nepal, according to Tourism Ministry. "In 2018, some 69,640 Sri Lankan tourists visited Nepal."

Likewise, some 97.5 per cent of the Sri Lankan visitors entered Nepal overland from Bhairahawa to visit Buddhist sites in Lumbini. Once the Gautam Buddha Airport in Lumbini us operational, it is expected to connect Colombo and Lumbini for the Buddhist tourists from Lanka.

"The civil aviation regulator has approved the Sri Lankan Airlines flights effective from August 31," the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) confirmed. "Sri Lankan Airlines will operate 158-seater Airbus A320 aircraft that will arrive at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 9:40 am and depart to Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Colombo at 10:40 am."

The passengers need to furnish evidence of hotel booking for 7 days quarantine before boarding the flight to Nepal. Likewise, they will require a negative PCR test report for Covid-19, according to the health protocal. "The test should be conducted 72 hours prior to arrival."

Likewise, as per the travel protocol of Sri Lanka, fully vaccinated travellers are not required to stay in quarantine. They are required to stay at a certified safe and secure hotel until the on-arrival PCR test is performed -- for some 24 hours to 48 hours.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

India hands over oxygen plant to Nepal

Indian ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra handed over a 960 LPM Medical Oxygen Plant to minister of State for Health and Population Umesh Shrestha today at a ceremony organised at the Ministry of Health and Population.

The medical oxygen plant has been installed at BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, and is designed to cater to providing 5 Liters Per Minute (LPM) per person amounting to a total capacity of 960 LPM, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

"It has the capacity to serve 200 patients simultaneously," it reads.

Speaking on the occasion, Shrestha said that the oxygen plant is a critical health infrastructure that will reinforce Nepal’s efforts in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the ceremony, ambassador Kwatra highlighted the significance of the deep rooted and multifaceted partnership between India and Nepal and reiterated that this gift symbolised India’s continued commitment to Nepal in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Oxygen is a very important clinical gas in health care centres and hospitals for treatment of Covid-19 patients, as has been experienced during the second wave of the pandemic in both India and Nepal. "With this DEBEL Medical Oxygen Plant that has been developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), hospitals now have the option of generating medical oxygen on-site, in a highly cost effective manner," the press note reads, adding that India is the fourth country in the world to develop this technology, which utilises Pressure Swing Adsorption technique and molecular sieve technology to generate oxygen directly from atmospheric air. "The installation of the medical oxygen plant would help in avoiding the dependency of hospitals for scarce oxygen cylinders."

"It will help in reducing the logistics of transporting cylinders and also continuous and reliable oxygen supply available round the clock," the press note adds.

Nepse up slightly after three days of freefall

The share market freefall stopped today as it gained 17.60 points to close the market.

The Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) index climbed above 3,100 mark again to close the market at 3,094.05 points, up by 17.60 points from the morning's opening.

Earlier, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the market witnessed a sharp decline of more than 120 points. Hydropower, development bank and finance stocks helped the index recoup the recent losses partially. With the market gain, some Rs 13 billion worth of equities changed hands today, the last trading day of the week.

Hydropower stocks rose by 5.08 per cent, followed by development bank and finance companies groups, which shot up by 4.17 per cent and 3.82 per cent. Likewise, microfinance and hotels and tourism sectors also gained, but life insurance sector lost around 1 per cent today.

Of the traded companies today, Arun Valley Hydropower's stake was traded the most with a turnover of almost Rs 1 billion, whereas Arun Kabeli Power and Ridi Hydropower with Rs 450 million and Rs 345 million today.

Some 8 companies including Narayani Development Bank, Shree Investment Finance, Guheshwori Merchant Bank and Finance, Arun Valley Hydropower, Corporate Development Bank, Ankhu Khola Jalvidhyut Company, Ghalemdi Hydro and Jeevan Bikas Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha witnessed upper circuit limit of 10 per cent.

But Life Insurance Company Nepal dropped by 3.33 per cent followed by Shivam Cements, which fell by 2.30 per cent.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Preparing for complex, overlapping crises key to building resilience for countries in Asia and the Pacific

Countries meeting today at the seventh session of the ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction were called on to intensify their efforts to prepare for and tackle complex, overlapping crises as the region strives to increase the resilience of its people as well as its economies.

"Notwithstanding the progress made by many countries in devising more robust systems of early warning and responsive protection -- with far fewer people dying as a result of natural disasters -- the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that  almost without exception, countries around the world are still ill-prepared to deal with multiple overlapping crises, which often cascade, with one triggering another,” United Nations under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said, adding that tropical cyclones, for example, can lead to floods, which lead to disease, which exacerbates poverty.

Since the start of the pandemic, the region has been hit by multiple natural and biological disasters. At the same time, climate change has continued to warm the world, exacerbating the impacts of many of these disasters. The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2021, also launched today, reveals that the pandemic, combined with the persistent reality of climate change, has reshaped and expanded the disaster 'riskscape' in Asia and the Pacific.

The triple threat of disease, disaster and climate change is causing not only considerable human hardship but also significant economic losses. Currently, the annual average disaster-related losses are $780 billion. It could nearly double, to around $1.4 trillion, in a worst-case climate scenario, it reads, adding that choosing a proactive strategy of adapting to natural and other biological hazards would be far more cost-effective at an annual cost of $270 billion.

In her statement during the opening session, the special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for Disaster Risk Reduction Mami Mizutori voiced support for the Committee’s work and reiterated the need for immediate and decisive action to build disaster resilience.

"The string of record-breaking weather events show that we do not have the luxury of ‘waiting this out’: action must be taken now to address these risks,” she said, adding that it includes increasing international funding for disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation, especially for countries graduating from the least-developed category.

Also speaking at the opening session, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Petteri Taalas emphasised the importance of climate change mitigation efforts. "All in all, successful climate mitigation doesn’t affect our everyday life very much,” he said, “but if we fail with climate mitigation the impact is going to be felt for centuries, even millennia."

The final speaker at the opening session, the secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Houlin Zhao highlighted the need for countries in Asia and the Pacific to make progress on digital transformation.

"It’s time for the Asia-Pacific region to rely even more on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs),” he said, adding that he is confident that countries in the region will access the unique opportunity presented by Covid-19 to accelerate digital transformation and leverage the historic role of ICTs in tackling the dual challenges of climate-related disasters and Covid-19.

Today also saw the return of the ESCAP Regional Conversation series, with a Ministerial Panel on Disaster, Climate and Health Resilience. This was the first in a series of four events that will bring together eminent personalities and thought leaders to exchange ideas and solutions to some of the key challenges facing Asia and the Pacific.

In her remarks, Alisjahbana highlighted the need to build universal resilience to address the vulnerabilities the pandemic has exposed and to tackle rising levels of inequality and poverty. She called for a paradigm shift in disaster risk management toward a focus on investing in prevention and the building of resilience.

Promoting accessible tourism can help Nepal drive recovery, boost economy

Investing in disability-friendly infrastructure and services can help hoteliers and entrepreneurs tap the accessible tourism market in Nepal, a growing segment globally, while driving economic growth and accelerating recovery, reveals a new IFC study.

The report -- 'Open to All: A Survey on Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in Nepal’s Hotels' -- covers 90 starred hotels in major cities. While 95 per cent of the participating hoteliers are aware of accessible tourism as a concept, they have not invested in necessary measures to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities.

With existing facilities limited to ramps and lifts in most hotels, only 17 per cent of the surveyed hotels put up signs to help visually-impaired guests and 74 per cent of the hotels did not have any Braille signage on door plaques and room directories, according to the survey. "Further, only about 9 per cent of the hotels had staff, who were trained in or had basic knowledge of sign language while only 33 per cent of the participating hotels had extra wheelchairs for guests."

The poor numbers were attributed to a range of factors including old structures, remote locations, and fewer guests with disabilities. Many of the surveyed hotels also cited extra cost as a key deterrent to building ramps, purchasing wheelchairs, or providing other accessible infrastructure and services.

"Globally, the concept of accessible or inclusive tourism has gained ground in recent times," IFC country manager for Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan Wendy Werner said, ading that accessibility at tourism destinations is key to responsible and sustainable tourism to ensure everyone can be part of the tourism experience, regardless of physical limitations, disabilities, or age. "Accessible tourism is not only a human right, it also makes business sense."

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), globally, around one billion people are affected by some form of disability. According to disability rights experts in Nepal, as more persons with physical limitations and disabilities travel around the world, a focus on accessible infrastructure in hotels as well as tourism destinations can boost the number of foreign tourists in the country.

"Currently, around 2,000 tourists with disabilities visit Nepal every year," president of the National Federation of the Disabled–Nepal Mitra Lal Sharma said. "But, with improved facilities and conditions that are more disability-friendly, the number could easily go up to over 10,000 tourists a year."

“Although accessible tourism is relatively new in Nepal, we are confident that with adequate support, we can push ourselves to explore and attract this growing segment of tourists to our country,” said president of Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) Shreejana Rana.

The study also recommends, going forward, the government, the private sector, and deveelopment partners will need to work together to create a conducive environment by incorporating universal accessibility practices into relevant legal and policy provisions, with the involvement of persons with disabilities.

The study was conducted by the Society of Economic Journalists–Nepal, in collaboration with the National Federation of the Disabled–Nepal, with financial and technical assistance from IFC.

Inflation eased to 3.6 per cent

Despite price hike in edible oils and pulses and legumes, consumer price inflation in the last fiscal year dropped at 3.6 per cent -- probably the lowest annual average price rise in the past two decades.

According to the ‘Current Macroeconomic and Financial Situation of Nepal’ released by the central bank, the inflation rate in the last fiscal year 2020-21 was lower by 2.55 point per cent compared to that of 6.15 per cent in 2019-20.

The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) report revealed that the average consumer price of ghee and oil, pulses and legumes, tobacco products, and transportation sub-groups rose by 17.54 per cent, 10.65 per cent, 9.83 per cent and 6.41 per cent, respectively on an annual basis.

The annual average non-food and services inflation stood at 2.51 per cent in 2020-21 compared to 4.61 per cent a year ago, the NRB report reads, adding that the inflation in the Kathmandu Valley subdued to 3.33 per cent from 6.96 per cent, whereas the inflation in Terai was down to 3.68 per cent from 6.29 per cent. "The inflation in the hills stood at 3.87 per cent, down from 5.10 per cent, whereas it decreased to 2.87 per cent from 4.91 per cent in the mountain region.

Fifth meeting of Nepal-Thailand JC takes stock of situation

The fifth meeting of Nepal-Thailand Joint Commission held virtually today took stock of overall state of bilateral relations between the two countries and exchanged views on further promoting cooperation between them.

On the occasion, foreign secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal and permanent secretary for Foreign Affairs of Thailand Thani Thongphakdi led their respective delegations to the meeting. The two sides discussed the challenges posed by the Covid-19 on the lives and livelihoods of peoples of both the countries and agreed to work together in combating the pandemic.

Paudyal also thanked the Royal Family of Thailand, the Thai Foreign Ministry, the Veerapuchong Foundation, and the Royal Thai Monastery, Lumbini for providing Nepal with medical equipment and supplies to combat the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

On the occasion, a wide range of issues pertaining to Nepal-Thailand relations including technical cooperation, trade and investment, tourism and culture, people-to-people contacts, and education were discussed, according to the Foreign Ministry.

While underscoring the need of enhancing economic engagements between the two countries, Paudyal also apprised the Thai delegation about the policy, legal, institutional and procedural reforms undertaken by the government with a view to creating an enabling environment for foreign investment in the country.

The two sides also exchanged views on enhancing cooperation at the regional level including through BIMSTEC.

The Nepali delegation comprised of the ambassador of Nepal to Thailand, senior officials of the Foreign Ministry, Finance Ministry, Health, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation ministries, ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, and Education Ministry. Likewise, the Thai delegation comprised of the Royal Thai ambassador to Nepal, senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the officials of Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA).

The sixth meeting of the Joint Commission will take place on a mutually convenient date, the Foreign Ministry press note reads.

Kathmandu Metropolis shaming tax defauletr with music and dance

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has launched an innovative campaign to recover tax dues from businesses and entities in the capital.

The metropolis officials today went around the capital city with all-women musician troupe playing traditional music like panche baja door-todoor , with a group of city police personnel blowing bullhorn to remind the defaulters to pay their taxes. They were wearing sashes with messages to pay tax on time.

They visited the offices of five tax defaulters — Kantipur Hotel at ward 1, Hotel Platinum at Soalteemode, WhiteField School, RB Complex, and Kesha Properties and Ranjana Trade Centre at New Road, today. The band reached the houses of people, who had not paid the tax and sang a song urging them to abide by the citizens' role to compulsory pay property tax on time. They also pasted tax notices at the offices warning them to pay the dues within a week or face legal action.

The metropolis is, however, criticised for only pressuring the small tax payers, and not pressing the big tax payers to pay tax.

The city office claimed that it will take action according to the Local Government Operation Act 2017 and other prevailing laws, if the defaulters did not clear the taxes by September 9.

The city office -- in July-end -- had announced to padlock the offices of 23 tax defaulters. Earlier, in June too, the City office had named some 23 businesses and entities as tax defaulters, including Chirayu Hospital, Kantipur Dental Hospital, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Shaheed Memorial Hospital, National Hospital, Manmohan Hospital, New Road Team, United Trade Centre, Buddhabai Complex, Bagmati Chamber, Kathmandu Engineering College, Nepal Tuberculosis Centre, Nepal Red Cross Society, Aadhar Complex, Agriculture Inputs Company Ltd, RB Complex, Suraj Arcade, Manmohan Memorial College, Shubhashree Cooperatives, Kathmandu Plaza, Nepal Share Market Complex, Gopalji Properties and Star Mall.

Later, on August 8, the City’s revenue department had named some 52 more tax defaulters giving them a month, until September first week, to clear the dues.

Of the total 75 tax-defaulters, some 10 have paid some of the tax dues. The City office collected a total of Rs 24.9 million from them, according to the revenue department of the City office. "Though, 75 businesses and entities owe around Rs 65 million in taxes."

The metropolis is encouraging locals to pay their property tax pending for the last three to 28 years. The Kathmandu metropolis charges 0.01 per cent of the government's evaluation of property, which is one of the lowest among other local governments inside the valley.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Final consignment of AstraZeneca gifted by Japan arrives

Nepal today received some 559, 360 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine -- the final consignment promised -- from Japan.

Officials handed over the last batch of the total 1.6 million doses Japan had pledged to Nepal through Covax, according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu.

"Nepal received the final consignment of vaccines from Japan today,” confirmed Department of Health Services.

Japan gifted a total of 1,055,380 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in Japan under the United Nations-backed international vaccine-sharing scheme. "On August 7 and 8, Nepal received some 513,420 doses and some 333,900 doses," the press note reads, adding that Japan also provided some 208,060 doses on August 21.

Japan in July had announced that it would provide some 1,614,740 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine through Covax.

The vaccine will be used to give second doses to those who had taken their first doses of Covishield, the AstraZeneca type of vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, in the second week of March.

Around 1.4 million people -- aged 65 and above -- who had taken first doses of Covishield between March 7 and 15, were deprived of their second doses as Nepal had failed to secure additional doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.

After Bhutan supplied 230,000 doses and Japan supplied the first consignment of AstraZeneca vaccine, the government started giving second doses from August 9 to those who took their first doses in March.

Nepal has used AstraZeneca vaccine -- manufactured in India, Japan, and Europe -- Vero Cell -- developed by China’s Sinopharm -- and Janssen by Johnson and Johnson of the US to inoculate against the coronavirus. "Nepal has received some 13,227,590 doses of vaccine till date," according to the Health Ministry. "Of the total, some 7.4 million doses of Vero Cell -- 5.6 million doses bought and 1.8 million doses provided under grants -- have arrived in Nepal."

In July, the US provided some 1,534,850 doses of single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccin through the Covax facility. "Covax itself had supplied some 348,000 doses of Covishield in March.

Earlier, India had also provided 1.1 million Covishield vaccine under grant assistance and Nepal had purchased 1 million doses from the Serum Institute of India but the Supreme Court in India baned export of vaccine.

Likewise, Bhutan has also provided some 230,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. "Of the 6 million doses of Vero Cell purchases by Nepal, only 1.6 million doses have been delivered," the ministry informed, adding that China has also pledged to provide an additional 1.6 million doses of Vero Cell under grant assistance.

Meanwhile, the government has already paid for 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine through the World Bank to the US manufacturer of the vaccine, which will be delivered by mid-February. "By the mid-February Nepal will receive some 11 million doses from Covax under a cost-sharing mechanism, which means the government will pay the vaccine-sharing scheme the amount equivalent to what the facility paid to the manufacturing company," according to the health ministry notice.

"Some 4,942,250 Nepalis (16.47 per cent) have taken their first dose of vaccine and some 3,846,736 Nepalis ( 12.82 per cent) have been fully immunised by yesterday," the ministry confirmed.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

UK provides Rs 130 million to help Nepali mothers and children to meet nutritional needs

The UK government has made an additional £788,000 (Rs 130 million) toward its nutrition support for vulnerable families in Nepal.

The UK aid contribution, through the British Embassy Kathmandu, comes at a time when monsoon floods, on top of the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, are disrupting livelihoods and exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition for many Nepalis, according to a press note issued by WFP Office in Kathmandu.

The funding is in addition to the £4.49 million (Rs 678 million) WFP received from the UK Government in December 2020 towards the agency’s response to Covid-19. "Natural hazards affect marginalised communities disproportionately, including women and children," the press note quoted development director at the British Embassy Kathmandu, Nathanael Bevan.

"Protecting the health of the Nepali people is a top UK priority," he said, adding that the UK is glad to be supporting WFP’s efforts to make sure vulnerable Nepalis, especially mothers and children, receive proper food and nutrition.

The support will mean more than 100,000 mothers and children in 8 districts in Province 2, Sunsari in Province 1, Jajarkot in Karnali province, Kailali, and Kanchanpur in Sudur Paschim province will receive Super Cereal, a specialised nutritional product that helps prevent malnutrition, for two months. Mothers will also receive information and counselling on nutrition and Covid-19. Part of the contribution will help WFP conduct a new round of cross-country household food security surveys.

Nepal is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Each year, thousands of Nepalis are affected by floods, landslides and other forms of natural hazards linked to climate change. Already over 15 per cent of households in Nepal are food-insecure, while around 39 per cent of children between 6 to 23 months do not meet minimum dietary requirements. This monsoon season, women and children’s access to adequate and nutritious food is further threatened by Covid-19.

"The pandemic and its socio-economic impact have put unrelenting pressure on Nepalese families’ food security," the press note quoted WFP Nepal country director Jane Pearce. "Between December 2020 and June 2021, the number of households experiencing income loss has doubled - from 21 per cent to 45 per cent - making food increasingly out of reach for many," Pearce said, adding that they are thankful for this timely contribution from the UK Government. "It will enable us to reach the most vulnerable mothers and children whose lives have been made harder by Covid, and now the monsoon, in support of the Government of Nepal’s emergency preparedness and response."

Friday, August 20, 2021

Finance Committee directs government to take action against Sebon and Nepse officials

 Concluding that the officials of Nepal Securities Board (Sebon) and Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) misused their posts and took unfair advantage, the Finance Committee -- under the Federal Parliament -- today directed the government to investigate into their alleged involvement in the 'golden share' case of Sarbottam Cement, and  take action against them.

The parliamentary committee also directed the ministry to take action regarding the case and furnish details.

Asking the ministry to prepare a draft of share market policy, legal, structural, managerial, and technical aspects reform, the committee also suggested promotion of transparency, morale, good conduct, responsibility and accountability in the share market.

Answering the parliamentarians questions, finance minister Janardan Sharma informed them of formation of committee to investigate into the case. "The ministry’s attention has been seriously drawn in the transaction of shares of Sarbottam Cement," he said, adding that the committee will recommend legal action, if any ill-intention was found.

The share market has become an alternative to the investors as economic activities have been halted due to Covid-19. The share market has attracted around 3.5 million investors as an alternative investment avenue.

The committee’s chair Krishna Prasad Dahal also asked the ministry to ensure the healthy, fair and transparent transactions in the share market. "The government should remain alert to the possibility of irregularities in the share market," he added.

The parliamentarians were of the view that the connection of Sebon and Nepse officials in share transactions is a moral issue, though the law has not barred the relatives of the officials to trade in the share market.

On the occasion, former finance minister Surendra Prasad Pandey said that the share market is yet to gain public trust. Likewise, lawmaker Ram Kumari Jhankri insisted on investigation of alleged involvement of higher officials of Sebon and Nepse in share trading.

Sebon is the regulatory body of the share market and Nepse is the frontline regulator. But the chair of Sebon Bhishma Dhungana was reportedly found involved in influencing the share market as his daughter purchased 10,000 units of Sarbottam Cement's share, whereas Nepse chief executive officer Chandra Singh Saud had also bought shares of Sarbottam Cement in the name of his wife. The Sarbottam Cement is issuing the public share through book-building.

The finance ministry had sought clarification from the Sebon and Nepse on July 28. The Financial Sector Management and Corporation Coordination Division of the finance ministry had asked Dhungana and Saud to send their clarification within three days. They have also submitted the clarification within three days.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The rest of Japan-pledged Covid-19 vaccine will arrive in a few days

The remaining doses of AstraZeneca vaccine Japan pledged for Nepal through Covax Facility are expected to arrive in Kathmandu on August 21 and 23, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.

The half of approximately 1.6 million doses were already delivered to Nepal on August 7 and 8 and have been used in the current vaccination campaign. The exact amount of vaccine donated from Japan to Nepal will be 1,614,740 doses in total.

Ambassador Kikuta Yutaka stated that the vaccine donation is a symbol of friendship between Japan and Nepal. Japan is a country, which keeps her words and I am pleased all the more that Japan will provide actually more than pledged 1.6 million doses vaccines by the end of August," he is quoted in the press note. "We deeply appreciate the dedication and hard work of all related organizations in international community."

The Embassy of Japan is working together with the government, Covax Facility, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO; and international community for the mitigation of Covid-19 pandemic as well as for the progress of post-Covid society and economy of Nepal.

The health ministry is administering the vaccines received earlier from Japan to those, who have already received the first doze of AstraZeneca vaccine but were awaiting for the second one. The government had earlier administered the vaccines to elderly people.

Government, World Bank sign $60 million agreement to improve higher education sector

The government and the World Bank signed a $60 million financing agreement for the Nurturing Excellence in Higher Education Programme today to improve the quality of Nepal’s higher education, scale up online learning, and expand access to academic institutions for underprivileged and vulnerable students.

"Investing in human capital is a key priority of the government to help young people in Nepal realise their development potential,”  finance secretary Madhu Kumar Marasini said, adding that the project supports the government’s focus on recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic by strengthening the higher education sector and ensuring students all across Nepal including those from disadvantaged groups have access to quality education amid the pandemic’s challenges.

The Nurturing Excellence in Higher Education Programme builds on Nepal’s successful higher education projects supported through results-based financing. It will help the government align its higher education sector with labour market needs, boost collaborative research and entrepreneurship, improve governance, and access to quality higher education, especially for disadvantaged students. The Covid-19 pandemic has created strong incentives to expand online platforms and blended learning, which the programme will help scale up across Nepal’s universities.

The programme will also expand targeted scholarships to help disadvantaged students pursue labor market-driven academic programs and support equity grants to higher education institutions in needy and disaster-affected areas in Nepal.

"An important aspect of Nepal’s recovery efforts from the pandemic is to ensure that quality higher education is accessible, inclusive, and relevant to the demands of the labour market,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that it is key to helping Nepal build back better and strengthen its resilience. "The World Bank is committed to support Nepal in this effort."

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

US provides additional support for urgent COVID-19 assistance in Nepal

United States ambassador to Nepal Randy W Berry, along with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Nepal Mission director Sepideh Keyvanshad, donated two liquid oxygen tanks to Bir Hospital and Paropakar Maternity Hospital in Kathmandu yesterday.

These liquid oxygen systems are joined to the central oxygen system of the hospitals, and will provide uninterrupted supply of oxygen, or refill around 40 cylinders of 40L capacity in an hour, according to a press note issued by the US Embassy in Kathmandu. "Four more liquid oxygen tanks are being installed at hospitals across the country with USAID’s support."

The US also announced today to provide an additional $10.5 million in urgent Covid-19 assistance for Nepal through USAID. "The additional funding assistance will strengthen surveillance and contact tracing in municipalities, support laboratory systems, and expand antigen testing at border crossings," the press note reads, adding that the funding will also help the Ministry of Health and Population develop protocols and guidelines on Covid-19 management, train and recruit healthcare workers to increase surge capacity, and strengthen critical care.

The US Embassy said the USAID also helps Covid-19 patients in isolation facilities and in their homes through telemedicine, ensures continuity of crucial health and rehabilitation services for people with disabilities, and equips local-level health facilities with other needed services by working with its partners.

The small hand-over ceremony included the Covid-19 Unified Central Hospital’s (Bir Hospital) chief executive officer Dr Bhupendra Basnet, and Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital’s director Dr Sangita Mishra.

The additional US assistance builds on more than $90 million in Covid-19 support from the United States government to Nepal that has reached over 60 per cent of the population since the pandemic started. The assistance includes $75 million from USAID in technical and commodity support such as oxygen cylinders, breathing devices, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, the press note further reads.

USAID’s support in the health sector reflects one of the longest standing and one of the most successful development assistance programmes in Nepal.  In the last 20 years alone, USAID has invested over $600 million to improve the quality of health services in Nepal, and has helped reduce maternal deaths, infant mortalities and eradicate malaria.

The US is partnering with Nepal to end the Covid-19 pandemic, mitigate its devastating social and economic effects, and build back a better world that is prepared to effectively respond to future outbreaks," the press note adds.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Lithuania extends support to Nepal to fight Covid pandemic

 A consignment of medical equipment and supplies from Lithuania to support Nepal fight the Covid pandemic was handed over today to the Ministry of Health and Population, according to a press note issued by the European Union office in Kathmandu.

The consignment was dispatched through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, it reads, adding that the support of the 13 EU member states that have extended medical support to Nepal including Lithuania in the recent monthsis around Euro 12 million (Rs 1.7 billion).

Lithuania is one among the 13 EU member states -- Spain, Finland, France, Belgium, Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Malta, Denmark, Ireland, Italy and Hungary -- responding to Nepal’s call for assistance.

Nepal had appealed to the international community for support of medical equipment and supplies to fight a severe outbreak of Corona Virus on May 10.

The medical supplies contributed by Lithuania include 5 breathing machines (mechanical ventilators) and 20 oxygen inhalers from the state reserve, which is administered by the Ministry of Health of Lithuania, the press note further reads, adding that the total value of the humanitarian aid provided to Nepal amounts to almost Euro 50,000 (Rs 7.08 million). "Lithuania stands with the people of Nepal through these testing times," ambassador of Lithuania to Nepal Julius Pranevicius said, adding that solidarity and joint efforts are crucial in the fight against the pandemic.

Representative of the Honorary Consul to Lithuania, joined by charge d'affaires and deputy head of EU Delegation to Nepal Stephane Maicon handed over the equipment to chief specialist at the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) Deependra Raman Singh at a programme organised at the ministry today.

"The European Union and its member states have shown that they are indeed a very close friend of Nepal through the donation of life saving medical equipment and supplies during times of dire need," charge d'affaires and deputy head of EU Delegation to Nepal Stephane Maicon said, adding that the EU will continue to step up efforts to assist Nepal and its citizens in the days ahead enabling them to be healthier and safer.

Alongside other development partners, the EU has been monitoring the distribution and the use of the supplies across the country.

IFC ramps up impact investments in South Asia to protect jobs and livelihoods, drive green recovery

 In a bid to protect the most vulnerable people and help companies maintain operations and jobs, IFC's focused and sustained investments in South Asia continued to have strong impact in the fiscal year 2021, with support for medical facilities, vaccines and supplies, and to hard-hit micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) while also spurring investments in renewable energy, affordable housing, and distressed assets resolution.

In the midst of a difficult year with massive and ongoing social and economic disruptions caused by Covid-19, IFC committed over $3.8 billion, including mobilisation and short-term finance, in South Asia as of June 2021 — resulting in a record investment volume of over $14.9 billion in the last five years in the region, towards a green, inclusive, and resilient recovery.

In India, IFC’s largest client country globally, total commitments at the end of June stood at $1.7 billion representing an increase of over 51 per cent from last year, according to a press note issued by the IFC today. "Likewise, in Bangladesh, IFC made total commitments of $791 million, an increase of almost 33 per cent from last year."

"The Covid-19 crisis has drastically impacted the region’s private sector, which has severely affected the region’s most vulnerable people," IFC's vice president for Asia and the Pacific region Alfonso Garcia Mora said, adding that Covid-19 has laid bare the region’s existing vulnerabilities in the financial sector, disrupting businesses -- particularly micro, small, and medium enterprises -- and leaving so many people exposed. "That’s why we’ve focused our attention on supporting moves to improve resilience on multiple fronts, as all indications are that the road to recovery will be long."

IFC has committed $590 million in Covid-response deals in South Asia -- with additional deals worth over $100 million in the pipeline. IFC’s fast-track financial support has helped clients across sectors at a time when the economic fallouts of the pandemic have severely impacted market sentiment. Further, IFC committed $353 million in climate finance and $490 million in IDA/FCS (International Development Association/Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations) countries in the region.

IFC already provided financing and advisory support for the production of critical pharmaceutical products and medical equipment such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and vaccines, the press note reads, adding that IFC will further focus on providing much needed liquidity to private sector companies in the region so they can maintain operations, preserve, and create jobs.

"The impact of the pandemic coupled with the region’s vulnerability to climate change, has highlighted the need for a collaborative, resilient and climate friendly recovery that can withstand future shocks,” IFC’s new regional director for South Asia Hector Gomez Ang said, adding that it is especially important for South Asia, which is home to three of the top five countries in terms of vulnerability to climate change globally.

While South Asia is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, estimates suggest that climate impacts could reduce its annual gross domestic product by an average of 1.8 per cent by 2050, rising to 8.8 per cent by 2100, if the countries fail to take adequate measures. The region is also estimated to have an untapped climate investment potential of $3.4 trillion by 2030.

Under the World Bank Group’s Climate Change Action Plan (2021-2025), IFC has committed to aligning all new real sector operations with the objectives of the Paris Agreement by July 1, 2025 and set the target of reaching 35 per cent financing for climate on average over the next five years. In addition, IFC will intensify its effort to create bankable investment opportunities and to mobilize private financing towards decarbonising five key sectors as outlined in the CCAP.

Friday, August 13, 2021

IOM plans to train local level officials on disaster risk reduction and management

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) plans a capacity building training for all elected representatives and officials of all 753 local levels of Nepal on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM).

The training seeks to enhance local authorities’ capacity on DRRM that will greatly assist in the development, drafting or revision of local DRRM Acts and or strategic action plans in the local context, according to the IOM press note.

Disaster Risk Management does not only curb losses from disasters but enhances the wellbeing and resilience of our communities,” said the UN resident coordinator for Nepal Sara Nyanti, in her video message for the participants of provincial level training of trainers (ToT) for Bagmati province organised on August 10 – 13 in Kathmandu.

DRM is our collective responsibility and I look forward to the collaboration between the UN and all of you as we strengthen the capacity of our communities and systems to understand risk, mitigate the impacts of disasters and transform to more resilient, stronger, healthy and prosperous communities in the future,” she added.

Previously, in March 2020, a five-day long national level training of trainers (NToT) was conducted to selected 21 participants (6 female, 15 male) in Kathmandu. Following the NToT, some 14 participants (4 female, 10 male) were selected based on the observation of performance during the NToT. A rescheduled refresher training, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was also conducted in February for the training schedules had to be halted.

The selected 14 master trainers will roll out a total of 19 four-days long Provincial ToTs (PToT) across all seven provinces to the participants from Provincial Ministries, District Disaster Management Committees, District Coordination Committees, Local Levels and project’s implementing partners. Consequently, the participants from those 19 PToTs will conduct capacity building trainings at all 753 local levels together with staffs from selected implementing partner, the press note adds.

"Disaster Risk Reduction and Management can only be achieved when three tiers of the Government work together in coordination," joint secretary of the Ministry for Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA) Bishnu Gautam said, addressing the participants. "I believe these trainings contribute to government’s strategic vision on disaster management which aims to build resilient community with local level disaster management Act in all local levels."

The training is part of the Promoting Action for Disaster Risk Governance and Working to Achieve Preparedness for Risk Reduction through Technical Assistance in Nepal (PARIWARTAN) project being implemented by the IOM under the leadership of the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA) with financial support of the USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).

The project is designed basically to build upon the activities carried out through Phase I project that contributed into government’s effort in implementing DRRM Act endorsed in 2017 and amended in 2019 with the aim to contribute to improved federal, provincial and municipal DRRM legislative regulatory framework that facilitates timely and comprehensive disaster risk management with strengthened capacity to build resilient community.

IOM developed the training module in coordination with the MoFAGA and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) based on the findings of a needs and capacity assessment study conducted in 14 selected municipalities across all 7 Provinces in 2018.

The study highlighted the current DRM scenario at local level as the ‘Moment of Maximum Opportunity’ (MOMO) for building the capacity of elected municipal leaders and staff to design and implement robust DRRM policies and plans, and to further contribute to the localisation of the DRRM Act at provincial and local levels.

Nepal to get 4 million doses of Moderna vaccines through Covax

 Nepal is the second country globally to have completed agreements with GAVI to procure 4 million doses of Moderna vaccines, financed by the World Bank, through the Covax cost-share option, according to a press note issued by the World Bank. "This will diversify and strengthen the country’s Covid-19 vaccine portfolio."

"Nepal is an early mover in utilising the Covax cost-share scheme, and I am pleased to note that we have finalised an arrangement, despite very challenging circumstances, to bring safe and highly effective vaccines to Nepal,” said minister of state for Health and Population Umesh Shrestha. "Moderna vaccines have helped expand options for vaccinating Nepalis above 12 years of age and fast-track Nepal’s progress towards a safer post-Covid world."

Delivery of these vaccines is expected to start by March 2022 and will contribute to Nepal’s goal to vaccinate at least 72 per cent of its population, as well as children 12-17 years of age for whom the Moderna vaccine is deemed safe and effective.

“We are honoured to support the people and government of Nepal, along with our development partners, by financing the purchase of safe and effective vaccines through the Covax facility,”  World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that it is a key element of World Bank's overall Covid response by helping to meet emergency health needs and strengthening the healthcare and vaccine delivery system.

The World Bank has made available $104 million to support Nepal’s health response to the pandemic, with $67.5 million earmarked to purchase and deploy Covid-19 vaccines. Last month, 1,000 oxygen concentrators were brought in through the project while seven oxygen generation plants are being established, one in each province. These will help strengthen health preparedness in the event of future waves of the pandemic.

"We commend the government of Nepal for being the first country in South Asia, and one of the first in the world, to join and tap into the Covax cost-share option,” said World Bank vice president for South Asia Hartwig Schafer. "The World Bank is committed to continuing our support to Nepal’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, which is critical to helping the people and economy of Nepal build back better from this unprecedented crisis."

The World Bank supports countries’ Covid-19 vaccine implementation plans. Countries make choices based on their specific needs and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended policy and guidelines on vaccines, therapeutics, and other tools they adopt. As the threshold for eligibility for IBRD/IDA resources in vaccine purchase, the bank accepts as eligible for inclusion in the project Covid-19 vaccines that (i) have received regular or emergency licensure or authorisation from at least one of the Stringent Regulatory Authorities (SRAs) identified by WHO for vaccines procured and/or supplied under the Covax Facility, as may be amended from time to time by WHO; or (ii) have received WHO Prequalification or WHO Emergency Use Listing. The Moderna vaccine meets these criteria.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has deployed over $157 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history. The financing is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump start a climate-friendly recovery. The bank is also supporting over 50 low- and middle-income countries, more than half of which are in Africa, with the purchase and deployment of Covid-19 vaccines and is making available $20 billion in financing for this purpose until the end of 2022.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Digital labour platforms offer young refugees a possible route to decent work

The digital economy can provide job opportunities for many young refugees but ensuring decent working conditions will require new directions in thinking and action, says a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) today.

The report, 'Towards decent work for young refugees and host communities in the digital platform economy in Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Egypt', finds that digital gig work has the potential to generate income for refugees. Since they often struggle to enter local labour markets, refugees may turn to prominent digital platforms such as Jumia or Upwork in the absence of local livelihood opportunities.

But there are two major concerns relating to refugee’s work on digital platforms; decent work deficits and a lack of connectivity. Kenya, Uganda and Egypt, the three countries studied in the report, have all invested heavily in the digital economy and adopted national strategies for increasing digital access. Yet in 2020 only 22.5 per cent of the Kenyan population was using the internet, compared with 57 per cent in Egypt and 24 per cent in Uganda.

Globally, while 93 per cent of refugees are covered by at least a 2G network, they are 50 per cent less likely than the general population to have an internet-enabled phone. For refugee youth, the access is even more limited.

Other significant challenges include difficulties obtaining work permits, unreliable electricity supply and internet connection, a lack of access to suitable hardware and software or access to digital payment mechanisms.

"The unequal spread of internet connectivity, inequalities in digital skills and digital literacy, alongside the specific obstacles that many refugee populations face in accessing digital economies and decent digital work make it difficult to apply for these jobs,” said the author of the report Andreas Hackl. “Without coordinated action, the digital economy can reinforce the deeply rooted social and economic inequalities that govern the young refugees’ lives.”

Initiatives are in place to facilitate refugees' access to the digital economy. Intermediary organisation like social impact labour platforms offer to redistribute work opportunities to refugees and negotiate fees and conditions with the platforms on their behalf.

Examples of digital skills training, such as coding academies, boot camps and digital technical and vocational education and training (TVET), have been established in Kakuma camp in Kenya, the Bidi Bidi settlement in Uganda and the large refugee-hosting cities in Egypt, such as Cairo.

The report recommends to promote digital jobs amongst young refugees including improve refugees’ access to the internet and to its economic and employment related dimensions. "The deepen efforts to build a variety of digital skills among refugees that increase their employability in a digitised future of work, while working with relevant employers and economic sectors to match skills with demands through stronger employment service institutions that cater to refugee populations," it recommends, adding that support existing remote employers of refugees with financial and technical assistance - including social enterprises and social impact work platforms – and promote formalisation strategies so as to achieve better payment and working conditions for their employees or self-employed workers. "Improve social dialogue related to digital labour, which is virtually absent in refugee hosting situations, through the access of workers’ and employers’ organisations to workers in refugee camps." 

The report also recommends to specifically address barriers and obstacles to digital livelihoods posed by legal and political refugee regimes through high-level advocacy and policy support.

Nepal will receive 10.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by mid-October

 Nepal will receive 10.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by mid-October, claimed minister of state for Health and Population Umesh Shrestha.

Addressing the House of Representatives (HoR) meeting today, state minister said that Nepal has so far received 10,860,170 doses of Covid-19 vaccines and is going to receive an additional 10.2 million doses by mid-October, and 30.23 million by mid-February, next year. "By February next year, Nepal will have received 50.23 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines."

State Minister Shrestha also maintained that the government has already begun processes to procure Covid-19 vaccines for children and will be inoculating them with the vaccines soon.

Nepal today recorded 3,260 new cases of Covid-19 and 32 deaths. The past one week has seen above 20 per cent infection among the tested, which is more than the previous week.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Japan-gifted AstraZeneca vaccine arrive

 Nepal today received some 513,420 doses -- the first consignment of the 1.6 million doses -- of AstraZeneca vaccine gifted by Japan through the COVAX facility, an international vaccine-sharing scheme backed by the United Nations (UN).

The Health Ministry confirmed that some 513,420 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Nepal today morning. Some more doses -- the second consignment -- are expected to arrive tomorrow, according to the ministry. "The remaining doses of the vaccine will arrive after a week."

Japanese ambassador Kikuta Yutaka attended the hand-over ceremony of the Japanese-made AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) with the state minister of Health and Population Umesh Shrestha, joint secretary of North East Asia Division at the Foreign Ministry Lok Bahadur Thapa, representative of UNICEF Nepal Elke Wisch and WHO representative to Nepal Dr Rajesh Sambhajirao Pandav. "The vaccine donation from Japan for Nepal through COVAX facility was announced by minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan Motegi Toshimitsu on July 13," according to Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu. "The remaining half of 1.6 million doses pledged by Japan will be shipped to Kathmandu shortly, once the arrangements of the relevant organisations finalised," the Embassy press note reads.

At the hand-over ceremony, ambassador Kikuta stated that this donation is 'From the People of Japan for the Friendship with Nepal'. He also appreciated the cooperation of all the concerned organisations including the government of Nepal and the international organisations such as COVAX, GAVI, WHO and UNICEF. He also mentioned that the Government of Japan strongly supports the vaccination campaign by Deuba administration, which is necessary for the progress of post-COVID Nepali society and its economic recovery. "We hope that this vaccine, together with other generous contributions from international community, will help Nepal to ease down various difficulties caused by the Covid-19," the ambassador added.

Japan has been providing various support for Nepal to tackle with the Covid-19 pandemic with medical equipment for Nepali hospitals to date, the Embassy of Japan will continue working together with Nepal to overcome the pandemic, the press note reads.

The vaccine from Japan arrived in Nepal a day after 230,000 doses of the same type of vaccine were delivered to Nepal by Bhutan. Nepal needs some 1.4 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine immediately to administer second doses to those aged 65 and above, who took their first doses in the second week of March.

The received vaccine will be provided as the second doses to those over 65 years from Monday,” the Health Ministry confirmed.

Nepal started the vaccination drive in January with the 1 million doses of Covishield, the AstraZeneca type vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, which were gifted to Nepal by India. Of the 2 million doses Nepal bought from the Serum Institute, only 1 million doses were shipped. Serum Institute of India is yet to ship the remaining doses.

According to the ministry, Nepal has received some 10,526,270 doses of vaccine from various sources.

Nepal so far has used India-manufactured Covishield, China's Sinopharm manufactured Vero Cell , The US manufactured Johnson & Johnson. "Of the total 5.8 million doses of Vero Cell, Nepal bought some 4 million doses from China whereas 1.8 million doses were provided by the Chinese government under grant assistance," according to the ministry, "On July 12, the US provided some 1,534,850 doses of Janssen through the COVAX facility, whereas COVAX itself had supplied 348,000 doses of Covishield to Nepal on March 7.

As of today, some 4,442,622 people have received their first doses (around 14.8 per cent) and some 2,359,793 people have been fully vaccinated (some 7.86 per cent). The government has unveiled a plan to procure 42 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine by February next year, and inoculate all eligible citizens above 12 years of age before mid-April.

As of Saturday, 4,442,622 people have received their first doses (around 14.8 percent) and 2,359,793 people have been fully vaccinated (7.86 percent).

Friday, August 6, 2021

Seven hospitals to improve healthcare waste management system

The Government of People’s Republic of China and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) jointly launched a new initiative in Nepal to support the country in Covid-19 response by improving the healthcare waste management system, under the framework of China’s South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund (SSCAF).

UNDP will work closely with department of Health Services under the Ministry of Health and Population and with seven Covid designated hospitals across the country, including Koshi Hospital, Biratnagar; Narayani Hospital, Birgunj; Janakpur Hospital, Janakpurdham; Shree Birendra Hospital, Chhauni; Rapti Provincial Hospital, Tulsipur; and Bheri Hospital, Nepalgunj, according to a press note issued by the UNDP.

The joint effort will support upgrading of hospital waste management systems by providing support in the form of autoclaves, setting up waste treatment areas, and training the healthcare workers on their use as well as proper means to manage medical waste. It is anticipated that 350 healthcare professionals will be provided with the required technical skill-set on proper management of healthcare waste, it reads, adding that alongside this, 100 officials from the local government will also be trained on better handling of health emergencies.

In parallel, the initiative works to increase the public’s knowledge and preparedness on medical waste management by developing Public Service Announcements in various local languages in Nepal. Youth volunteers from 300 urban and rural municipalities will be mobilised to conduct an online campaign to raise awareness on this important issue.

"We hope that Nepal will benefit from the project, and the haze of Covid-19 pandemic will disperse as soon as possible with the joint efforts of all countries around the world," The Chinese ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi, speaking of this initiative, said.

This initiative is part of the SSCAF-Covid-19 regional project in Asia and the Pacific and will directly and indirectly benefit over one million people.

"UNDP is privileged to enter into a tripartite agreement with the Ministry of Health and Population and China Aid to help demonstrate how we can improve the healthcare waste management system in Nepal," UNDP Resident Representative Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labe said, adding that besides Nepal, similar initiatives are initiated by UNDP and China Aid in the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

This project is also expected to help the country meet its ambitious targets under the Sustainable Development Goals, and contribute to the most recently updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to support emission reductions particularly on waste management in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

"As a matter of fact, Nepal has set 10-year targets to adopt and implement waste segregation, recycling and waste-to-energy programs in at least 100 municipalities, and to enhance 1,400 healthcare facilities with proper management of healthcare waste through the application of non-burn technologies," she said, adding that UNDP wants to seize this opportunity to transform this crisis into an opportunity and bring changes to our behaviour to ensure a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future for all in Nepal.

Monday, August 2, 2021

UNFPA delivers 800 units of oxygen cylinders to Nepal

 The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) continues its humanitarian support to Nepal’s Covid-19 pandemic response by providing additional lifesaving supplies.

The UNFPA deputy representative Dr Hashina Begum today handed over the oxygen cylinders worth Rs 11.9 million (equivalent to $100,000) to the director of Management Division under the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) Dr Bhim Singh Tinkari.

The support from UNFPA to Nepal was made possible under the existing South-South and Triangular Cooperation Project agreement between Nepal, China, and UNFPA, according to a press note issued by the UNFPA.

As Nepal is battling the second wave of Covid-19, the country experienced a critical shortage of oxygen. The pandemic has put enormous pressure on health facilities across the country.

"We require oxygen supplies to respond to the current emergency as well as to prepare for a possible third wave," Dr Tinkari said, adding that the support from China and UNFPA will help increase access to health facilities with functioning oxygen supplies. "We appreciate our partnership with international development partners in our collective Covid-19 response efforts."

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on vulnerable populations including women of reproductive age, who are facing greater barriers in accessing maternal health and family planning services, resulting in an increased number of home deliveries.

"While we are providing the critical support to the Covid-19 response efforts, we must ensure continuity of reproductive health services including consistent supply of contraceptives and essential reproductive health commodities to mitigate the impact of the unprecedented pandemic on women and girls,” said UNFPA representative to Nepal Lubna Baqi.

UNFPA is working with federal, provincial, and local governments and partners to ensure that special and unique needs of women and girls of reproductive age are addressed. "Thanks to the Government of China for their timely support under the maternal health programme in providing the oxygen cylinders to save lives at this critical time,” Baqi noted.

UNFPA will continue to support the government’s Covid-19 response plans together with other UN agencies and development partners to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on progress towards the three transformative results -- ending preventable maternal deaths, ending unmet need for family planning, and ending GBV and harmful practices.

Earlier, also with funding from Government of China, UNFPA delivered over 7,000 PPE kits to MoHP to support the Nepal’s effort to prevent transmission and respond to the pandemic while ensuring continuity of life-saving SRH and GBV services for women and girls. In addition, through the hospital-based One Stop Crisis Management Centers and safe houses UNFPA delivered over 340,000 sanitary pads, supported by China, to young women and girls across the country as part of Covid-19 and monsoon emergency responses.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Buddha Air starts Pokhara-Nepalgunj direct flight

 Buddha Air has started a 'cross city' flight from Pokhara.

The direct flights from Pokhara to Nepalgunj has started from today, confirmed the private airliner.  The company had been planning to fly on Pokhara-Nepalgunj-Pokhara route from May 1 but was unable and postponed the schedule due to the prohibitory order. Buddha had earlier also planned to start flights from Pokhara to Biratnagar and Simara from May, the airliner said.

According to Pokhara station of Buddha Air, the airline will fly on Pokhara-Nepalgunj-Pokhara route three days a week on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the first phase. "In the second phase, there is a plan to operate more than one flight a day, if passengers demand such flights."

According to the airlines, the flight will leave Pokhara for Nepalgunj at 9:10 AM. "There will be a flight from Nepalgunj to Pokhara at 10AM," it confirmed, adding that in the first phase, Beechcraft 1900D series aircraft with a capacity of 18 seats will fly on the route. "Pokhara-Nepalgunj flight is 35 minutes, and has three types of fares, Rs 7,635, Rs 5,535 and Rs 4,935."