The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic first started in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has spread rapidly across the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January, 2020 and later announced the disease as a pandemic on 11 March, 2020. 

How will COVID-19 impact the people of Nepal?

Nepal is among the high-risk countries for the virus to spread because of its location between India and China. Coronavirus may have serious consequences in Nepal, due to:

  • Poor health monitoring mechanisms
  • Open borders with India
  • Movement of migrant workers across borders
  • Low capacity of the government in terms of human and equipment resources to deal with public health emergencies
  • Poor access to water and sanitation facilities and hygiene practices further compounded by lack of proper protective gears for different frontline workers

Access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

The statistics below highlight the poor provision of WASH both in people's homes and in healthcare facilities (HCFs) in Nepal. The situation is made worse by a lack of understanding about how important these three things are in keeping people safe, clean and healthy.

(JMP 2017)

Only 28% of the country's water supply systems are fully functional.

(Status of Drinking Water and Sanitation 2018/19, DWSSM)

52% of people don't have handwashing facilities with soap and water at home.

(JMP 2017)

36% of HCFs do not have a basic water supply.

(JMP Baseline Report 2019)

54% of HCFs do not have handwashing materials at the point of care.

(JMP Baseline Report 2019)

99% of HCFs do not have basic waste management practices.

(JMP Baseline Report 2019)

Why is hand hygiene important?

Handwashing is the first line of defence to control the spread of infectious diseases including COVID-19. 

Mandari washing her hands at the tapstand, in Jajarkot, Nepal, May 2017.
WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya
Mandari washes her hands at a tapstand, in Jajarkot, Nepal.

Along with other important behaviours, thoroughly washing hands frequently and at key moments is essential to control the spread of the virus. Learn more about the importance of hand hygiene.

What is WaterAid doing in Nepal to stop the spread of COVID-19? 

WaterAid Nepal is supporting the initiatives of the Government of Nepal (primarily Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) and WASH cluster) to be prepared for a national response against the possible outbreak of COVID-19 in Nepal.

We will primarily build on the existing work on integration of hygiene promotion in routine immunization, supporting the Family Welfare Division of Ministry of Health and Population at a federal level. Learn more about the hygiene promotion through routine immunization project.

In addition, we will coordinate with the Ministry of Water Supply and WASH Cluster on response activity especially at local municipality and rural municipality level. We will be working continuously to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Our response so far

Scroll through the photo gallery to see some of the highlights of what we've done so far in response to COVID-19.

Watch this video which explains how our contactless handwashing stations help people maintain hand hygiene:

Watch this video to discover how the contactless handwashing stations work:

Learn more about how contactless handwashing stations are helping the people of Nepal:

Download this two-pager (PDF) about the stations. 

Download this case study (PDF) about the stations that have been installed in Lahan Municipality. 

We are tackling the COVID-19 response in three phases:

  1. Rapid response: we are rolling out a mass public awareness campaign for hygiene behaviour change to prevent the spread of COVID-19, providing handwashing facilities with soap and water, and advocating for the protection, safety, and dignity of sanitation workers.
  2. Intermediate response: we will formalise behaviour change interventions, ensure WASH contingency plans are adequately resourced, and we will scale up WASH facilities in communities and municipalities.
  3. Long term response: we will focus on strengthening local WASH systems and sustaining behaviour change.

Public awareness resources