US Government Should Send Emergency Covid-19 Aid to Nepal
US Government Should Send Emergency Covid-19 Aid to Nepal
Note: This letter was sent to the US State Department and the US Committee on Foreign Relations in early May and can be accessed here. This is a public version of the letter.
Open Letter to the White House
Dear President Biden and Vice-President Harris:
We write on behalf of 350,000 concerned Nepali diaspora community members, navigating challenging transnational lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our families and other loved ones are still in Nepal, facing a public health disaster that has received little global media coverage. We would like to bring this situation to your attention and request your immediate support to send humanitarian aid, specifically vaccine doses, vital oxygen, related equipment (oxygen cylinders, liquid oxygen tanks, oxygen delivering devices, and PSA oxygen plants among other things), and essential supplies for hospitals to support frontline health care workers and the people of Nepal most affected during the current outbreak.
We know that COVID-19 is a global problem and that the United States faces difficult choices in responding to all the need and all those who seek help. However, when we tell the world that the U.S. is back, that we want to lead, and that our leadership will reflect our values of compassion and inclusion, then we have to be open to addressing this urgent and compelling crisis in Nepal.
Nepal is reporting one of the fastest COVID-19 viral reproduction rates in the world, with a positivity ratio of 45%. Poor healthcare infrastructure, remote geography, and systematic challenges coordinating information and resources further compound this challenge. The already low capacity of frontline medical workers has been stretched thin, exacerbated by a critical shortage of hospital beds, supplementary oxygen, and intensive care facilities. There are less than 2000 ICU beds available in the whole country, and in areas where the cases are rising, most of these available critical care and ICU facilities are already full. Some of the country’s most populated districts still have no PCR testing facilities, and in some remote areas of the country, where access to healthcare and emergency services is extremely limited or non-existent, as many as 80% of COVID-19 tests are coming back positive. Currently, only 1% of the Nepali population is fully vaccinated. Approximately 1.7 million of those who received the first dose are at risk of defaulting on the second dose due to the vaccine stock out.
Nepal’s epidemic is accelerating at a faster rate than that of India. Experts estimate that at the current rate, Nepal’s care burden will surpass its capacity within weeks resulting in a massive loss of human lives. The predicted physical and economic devastation, including substantial loss of life in the coming weeks and months, will be among the most severe of our lifetime. Despite this, Nepal has received no global attention. We are all shocked by the crisis we see in India, but Nepal, as India’s neighbor, is equally affected by the pandemic raging through its population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a crisis of social justice and inequity around the globe, particularly in resource-strapped nations like Nepal, which faces serious inequities related to vaccine access and distribution. The unique amplified situational vulnerabilities borne out of vaccine inequities have been referred to as “vaccine apartheid”: economically developed nations have vaccinated one person every second over the last month, while most of the poorest countries are yet to give a single dose. Further, recent estimates show that vaccine inequality at today’s scale could cost the world as much as $9.2 trillion in economic losses, with rich countries suffering half of that blow.
Nepal currently has no means of internal vaccine production and thus must procure vaccines from other countries. With a significant percentage of Americans now vaccinated and the pandemic coming under control in the U.S., we humbly request the U.S. provide immediate support in sending vaccines to Nepal. We can save tens of thousands of lives by sending surplus vaccine doses to Nepal for distribution—and more importantly, offer the Nepali people hope for the future. Exporting the vaccines from the U.S. will not only help other countries like Nepal, but also prevent future outbreaks at home.
While we appreciate the recent additional $8.5 million in COVID-19 support from the U.S. for Nepal, and applaud U.S. support for GAVI and its global vaccine efforts, these steps are not enough to forestall immeasurable devastation for the people of Nepal. Nepal needs a more significant investment to make pragmatic change and prevent significant loss of life. For a health system that is already stretched well beyond its capacity, only rapid and extensive vaccination can provide meaningful relief and mitigate the devastating impact of this rapidly evolving disaster.
Six years ago, the U.S. stood with Nepal as a true ally in responding to a horrific and deadly earthquake. For those of us who love Nepal, this crisis is reminiscent of those tragic days that left us with a deep sense of loss. With your help, we can avoid an even more devastating experience now. We look up to the U.S. as the beacon of hope that the world has always seen. On behalf of our nations, our families, and our loved ones, we humbly request that you affirm the 70-year partnership between the U.S. and Nepal by providing life-saving COVID-19 vaccines, vital oxygen, related equipment (oxygen cylinders, liquid oxygen tanks, oxygen delivering devices, and PSA oxygen plants among other things), and essential supplies for hospitals to support frontline health care workers and the people of Nepal most affected during the current outbreak.
As U.S. citizens, U.S. citizens and residents of Nepali ancestry and the Nepali diaspora community, we are proud to see the tremendous strides the U.S. has made in recent months to protect our own citizens and to increase domestic vaccine supply and distribution. Now, we ask that the U.S. channel its energies to addressing a true humanitarian crisis in the making. Helping to save the lives of people in desperate need in Nepal, standing together in the face of crisis and tragedy— that is what the U.S. has always done and continually stood for in the world.
With sincere gratitude for your attention and support,
Arati Maleku, PhD
President, Nepal Rising
Avima Upreti, Esq.
President, Nepali Women's Global Network
Bhupesh Khadka, MD
President, America Nepal Medical Foundation
Er. Bijay R. Bhattarai
President, Association of Nepalis in the Americas
Prabal Gurung, Fashion Designer and co-Founder, Shikshya Foundation
Scott H. DeLisi
Executive Director, Engage Nepal
Former Ambassador to Nepal
President, Non-Resident Nepali Association, National Coordination Council USA
Sabrina Singh, Esq.
Board Member, South Asian Americans Leading Together
Former Member, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) under President Barack Obama
Abhaya Shrestha, Chair, Help Nepal Network US
AC Sherpa, Hon. Consul General, Washington State
Anuj Rajbhandari, President, Books of Joy
Anushka Shrestha, Miss Nepal World 2019 and NRNA Goodwill Ambassador
Aparajita Jha, Association of Nepali Teraian in America
Austin Lord, Anthropologist & Fulbright Fellow, Cornell University
Bipin Giri, Member, Nepal Rising Seattle & Sr. Engineer, Boeing
Darshan Rauniyar, Former candidate for the US House of Representatives
Dashrath Budhathoki, President, Nepal Seattle Society
Devendra Manandhar, Member, Nepal Rising Seattle
Dibesh Karmacharya, Chairperson, Executive Director, Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal
Diwakar Dahal, PhD, President, Association of Nepalese in Midwest America (ANMA)
Gagan Chhetri, President, Non-Residential Nepalis Washington
Hemanta Shrestha, PhD, Co-founder, Numeric Mind, Wiseyak, Inc.
Kiran Sitoula, Elected Vice Mayor - Town of Indian Head, MD
Kushal Pokhrel, Board Member, Nepal Rising
Mohan Gurung, Former Washington State Commissioner, CAPAA
Naveen Shrestha, Member, Nepal Rising Seattle & Sr. Engineer, Boeing
NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati, Photographer/Curator/Activist
Nima Rumba, Musician
Prabha Bhattrai Deuja, President, American Nepali Society
Pukar Malla, PhD, Executive Chairperson, Daaytiwa
Rajesh B. Shrestha, Vice President, Nepal Rising and Co-lead, Nepal Rising Seattle
Raksha Pant, Member, Nepal Rising Seattle
Roshan R. Shrestha, Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Sav Shrestha PhD, Human Factors Psychologist, Dell Technologies
Shalu Pradhan, Co-lead, Nepal Rising Seattle
Suman R. Timsina, Executive Director, International Development Institute
Sushil Koirala, Public Health Expert
Tarun Timalsina, President, Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Students Association
Tshering Sherpa, President, United Sherpa Association
Tshering Sherpa, President, Network of Sherpa Students and Professionals
If you have not done so already, please also sign the #Vaccine4Nepal petition to the US Embassy in Nepal here and join the movement.
Join the Covid-19 Nepali Diaspora Platform to collectively fight this 'invisible earthquake' here.