The commissioner of Lahore and the health minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan have mobilised staff and resources to implement after Ramadan. BRAC, the world’s largest non-governmental organisation, is poised to reach 77 million people in Bangladesh with the NORM masking interventions, along with associated healthcare responses and vaccine preparation strategies.
This model of community-level mask distribution, promotion, and reinforcement can serve as the anchor to cost-effectively deliver the other necessary components of an effective COVID response strategy: empowering community health workers to provide more accurate treatment options to those who fall ill, and undertaking the activities required to overcome vaccine hesitancy and facilitate vaccine registration.
In both India and Bangladesh, SEWA and BRAC are taking advantage of the economies of scale in mask delivery to also set up Covid care centres to take pressure off hospitals. Distinguishing effective from inaccurate treatment strategies requires medical expertise and clinical experience. We have partnered with the Swasth Alliance convened by a professor at Harvard Medical School to create training manuals on effective Covid treatment plans for community health workers. We have also collected large-sample data to systematically understand the nature of vaccine hesitancy in Nepal, and other low and middle-income countries, to inform the design of vaccine campaigns.
Quick implementation of the NORM model in Nepal is feasible with decisive leadership and political will, as other South Asian neighbours are doing. Our international research team stands ready to provide any necessary technical support to adapt the model, share all implementation protocols, and monitor results to aid further tinkering and any necessary course-correction, as we have done for our other partners in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
The team is not looking for any monetary or research rewards. The evidence is convincing that this is a cost-effective way to stem Covid transmission and save lives, and we would therefore like to facilitate implementation by the Nepali government or other local non-government actors.