Embassy’s initiatives on COVID-19 related matters (as of May 20, 2021)
The Embassy is regularly following up to Nepal’s request to the Department of State/USAID for AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine (MoFA’s Note to the US Embassy in Kathmandu dated April 27, 2021, and MoF’s letter to USAID, Kathmandu). The Embassy has requested for the vaccines taking into account the pressing time line for second dose of vaccines who got the first dose and theneed to cover more vulnerable people by the vaccine. Ambassador has had virtual meetings with senior officials at the State Department and has apprised of the urgent support needed.
The latest of such meetings was on May 20th 2021organized by the Office of the Chief of Protocol and the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs of the Department of State. Chiefs of mission of the Embassies from South Asian and Central Asian countries attended the meeting. During the briefing, Ms. Gayle E. Smith, Coordinator of the Global COVID Response and Health Security and Mr. Dean Thompson, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State briefed the participants on the initiatives taken by the US Government to respond to the pandemic in the region.
During the briefing, Ambassador expressed the hope that the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s resolution of May 19 on COVID support to India, including Nepal would help expedite vaccines and critical medical supplies to Nepal. Additionally, he also requested the US side to make a match between the prioritized materials critically needed in Nepal and the materials to be provided by the US side.The US officials shared that allocation of AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine is subject to pending safety review from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and also in the consideration by the National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).The Embassy has urged that the allocation be made as early as possible; as even a single day’s earlier actions in this initiative would save many more lives.
Of the Biden Administration’s publicly announced 20 million doses of vaccines to be allocated to other countries through COVAX in addition to earlier announced 60m doses of AZ vaccines, the White House has publicly shared that the first batch (10%) of AZ vaccine may be dispatched to needy countries by July 4, 2021.
The Embassy has been in constant communication with the Department of State and USAID regarding all possible cooperation between the two countries on fighting COVID-19. So far, a total of $50.9 Million worth of COVID related support has been extended by the US Government to Nepal, in addition to its commitments through multilateral channels. Out of this, USAID has channeled $45.1 Million assistance which includes, among others, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Department of Defense (DoD) has funded $5.8 Million COVID support supplying PPEs, breathing devices, isolation and disaster camp equipment, telemedicine equipment, COVID-19 testing supplies, handwashing stations, high-flow oxygen therapy devices and medical equipment for health clinics. On May 13, DoD announced an additional $2.75 million in emergency funding to provide oxygen cylinders and liquid oxygen storage tanks.
The Embassy is in regular contact with the State Department/USAID officials on the supply of medical equipment.USAID officials have mentioned that given the worsening situation in Nepal, US side will prioritize Nepal in distributing vaccines and medical supplies. Likewise, US officials have also hinted that the first batch vaccines may likely be dispatched prior to the G-7 meeting which is going to take place in the second week of June in the UK.
On the Embassy’s request through a diplomatic note to the Department of State, the US side has committed to provide critical medical supplies to Nepal on an urgent basis. The Department of State has communicated to the Embassy that the US side is willing to provide Oxygen concentrators, antigen kits and PPEs to Nepal in the immediate term. Same request was forwarded to the USAID.
As of May 19, 2021, there may be a chartered flight to Nepal on May 24 carrying particularly PPEs and some other medical supplies (5 million surgical masks, 50,000 face shields, and 650,000 nitrile examination gloves, including 50,000 large, 400,000 medium, 200,000 small gloves and some human remains bags).
Similarly, USAID has also informed that its implementing partner FHI 360 has already purchased oxygen concentrators and oxygen cylinders which is being shipped to Nepal tentatively on Friday May 21, 2021 from China to Nepal via land route. In addition, the USAID has also communicated that there may be 2 additional flights carrying medical supplies within a couple of weeks.
The Embassy was informed that on behalf of the Department of Defense (DoD), the US Embassy in Kathmandu handed over PPEs, breathing devices, isolation and disaster camp equipment and supplies, telemedicine equipment, COVID-19 testing supplies, hand washing stations, and medical equipment for health clinics to the CCMC. The Embassy has been informed that in the near future, the US DoD has a plan to support equipment such as Bilevel or two-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAPS), Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), and other oxygen therapy devices.
Lobbying with Congressmen and Hearing in the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate:
Ambassador has held several video conferences as well as in-person meetings with Congressmen, Council Members, politicians, former US ambassadors, NRNA, Nepali Societies and non-government organizations to lobby for timely COVID related support to Nepal. Some of them have already made appeals to the US Congress and the administration for extending support to Nepal.
In coordination with the Embassy, various Organizations including NRNA NCC-USA, Nepal-USA Medical Association, Central Ohio Nepali Association, Nepal Seattle Society, etc. have written letters to their representatives in the US Congress on various dates appealing for sufficient allocation of vaccines and urgent delivery of critically needed medical supplies.
The efforts of the Embassy and several organizations to draw attention of the US congressmen to Nepal’s deepening COVID-19 crisis has brought some success as some Congressmen have expressed their concerns over alarming number of COVID cases in Nepal and voiced their support for the US emergency assistance to Nepal to fight with the pandemic in their remarks in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
As a result of several initiatives, the Foreign relations Committee passed a resolution on 19th May 2021 on Recognizing the Devastating Impact of COVID 19 in India with amendment to include Nepal and other bordering countries in the Resolution to make expedited assistance with the initiatives of some American Nepali. It is expected that the US government will consider Nepal in its urgent support list on COVID 19.
Coordination with NGOs and Nepali Diaspora on Supplies of Essential Medical Goods:
The Embassy is in constant touch with Nepali Diaspora and INGOs in the US and has urged them to supply Nepal with critical prioritized medical items. The Embassy has received commitment for support from various quarters; some of them being interested in handing over the goods to theirconcerned organizations and places rather than going through the MOHP, others requestingtheembassy to manage the freight and other logistics to send the donated materials to Nepal. The Embassy has asked them to follow the directives issued by the Government of Nepal andhas been coordinating on the matters related to freight, customs clearance, handover procedures and distribution of such materials.
The Embassy has encouraged all the helping hands to contact to Embassy focal person for updated information, facilitation and coordination on covid related supports.
The Embassy has received interests from various organizations to supply medical items to the Government of Nepal, and is coordinating with NRNA, Nepali community organizations, US based NGOs such as Direct relief, SEWA, Community partners International USA, America Nepal Medication Foundation, and other organizations for the supply of prioritized medical items to Nepal. The Embassy is coordinating with relevant Government agencies in Nepal to facilitate the release of such supplies at the customs points in Nepal.
NRNA US Chapter has been raising funds for the purchase and delivery of essential medical supplies to Nepal under the auspices of NRN central office.
Community Partners International USA, an INGO, has indicated that it intends to send 130 Oxygen Concentrators (5 Ltr) to Nepal. The Embassy has already sent a letter to the MOFA and MOHP to facilitate the release of these goods at the airport. There is a possibility of sending additional 600 Oxygen Concentrators (300 no – 5 Ltr capacity and 300 – 10 Ltr capacity).
Direct Relief, a reputed humanitarian organization of the US is donating worth of 1.5 million USD essential medical supplies including, 840 oxygen concentrators and life saving medicines to various hospitals, including Dhulikhel Hospital through MOHP. The chartered flight is scheduled to reach Nepal on May 27, 2021.
Embassy’s Public Call for Supporting Nepal in Pandemic:
In connection with leading the mobile consular services camps of the Embassy in Chicago, Illinois from April 16-18, and in Dallas, and Houston, Texas from May 14-17, Ambassador had interaction with local Nepali community organizations, business persons, chamber leaders, politicians and city officials/representatives and he has appealed them for supply of critically needed medical items to Nepal. The Embassy’s call for coordinated support in COVID is getting momentum now.
Dedicated COVID-19 page on the Embassy Website:
The embassy has created a separate COVID-19 page on its website to disseminate useful information among the public on COVID-19 and coordinate relief efforts among stakeholders such as the US-based NGOs, charity organizations, Nepali community members and the private sector. The website page contains (i) our work so far with daily updates, (ii) MoHP notices and health service priorities, (iii) MoFA directives on COVID matters, (iv) CCMC, and Cabinet decisions on COVID, (v) Immigration Department directives on visas and entry to Nepal, (vi) CAAN guidelines and regulations on flight and civil aviation, (vii) NGOs in touch with Embassy on Covid support and their address for network to others, (viii) NRNA link and their coordination, (ix) link and phones of organizations engaged in the relief campaign so far, and (x) COVID focal point in the Embassy.
The embassy has invited all the organizations and individuals who have expressed desires to help Nepal to be linked through the Embassy’s network for further facilitation and coordination.
Mr. Homkanta Bhandari, Economic Counsellor