In the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Nepal has extended the ongoing nationwide lockdown until 15th April. Since the beginning of the coronavirus spread, face masks and sanitizers are scarce in the market. This has mobilised several local initiatives and organisations to produce masks; however, quality standards and availability remain an issue.
Through the EU SWITCH-Asia Parya Sampada project, UN-Habitat and implementing partners are joining forces to respond at best to the numerous challenges posed by the COVID-19 spread in Nepal. Actions are being directed mainly towards the production of personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective face masks and hand sanitisers, and providing cooked food supplies in project areas and beyond, where these resources are scarce and rapidly running out. New jobs are also being created for local women home workers.
Working with health workers of the Patan Hospital to standardise protective equipment and products, partners are joining hands with SABAH-Nepal, who is leading the production with twelve local women from Bungamati. In just one day, 500 units have been stitched and sewed. The special feature of these protective masks is the use of in-between non-fabric cotton that can be easily replaced if contaminated.
Additional 600 women homeworkers are being mobilised for the production of other items in shortage, and Lumanti, who is a partner in the SWITCH-Asia project, is ready to mobilise its women’s cooperative network to support those most in need, namely, urban poor families in slum settlements. With the launch of this collective initiative, the Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Ward No 22, has approached the project team and ordered masks to distribute to the communities. As part of its preparedness planning, UN-Habitat is working closely with its SWITCH-Asia project partners to produce the required personal protective equipment materials in case the outbreak escalates.
The SWITCH-Asia programme has been in place for many years already, and I’ve had the chance to visit several of its projects. It is a cross-border initiative in Asia to encourage and promote governments and private sector to switch to greener, environmentally sustainable production and consumption practices.
EU Ambassador to Nepal, H.E. Ms. Veronica Cody
The EU Ambassador to Nepal, H.E. Ms. Veronica Cody said, "The SWITCH-Asia programme has been in place for many years already, and I’ve had the chance to visit several of its projects. It is a cross-border initiative in Asia to encourage and promote governments and private sector to switch to greener, environmentally sustainable production and consumption practices. SWITCH-Asia promotes energy efficiency, waste reduction and improved use of recycled and raw materials, which is good for the environment and saves money. In the current pandemic, we are examining our EU projects to see how we can re-purpose or re-direct them, to address both the health and economic impacts of the Coronavirus. This is just one example of re-directing a SWITCH-Asia programme to meet the needs of the Nepali people, both from a health aspect, in the design of re-usable masks, but also in offering employment to those who need it most. Stay healthy, stay safe!"