Both Arati and Sarala understand that the authorities have created a separate quarantine for women returnees, but say there is nothing here that women need. There are no sanitary pads available, and some women have run out of contraceptive pills.
The night-time patrols by police instead of being reassuring frightens the women in the quarantine, and they say it feels more like a concentration camp. The quarantine centre is a converted college building and has 12 women and three children. It is one of 30 quarantine centres in Dhangadi Municpality which have 688 returnees from India, 79 of them women and 19 children.
Deputy Mayor Sushila Mishra said it was difficult enough to set aside a separate quarantine for women, and she is trying to coordinate with the police to have women guards at night . The fear among women is fanned by the fact that the perpetrators of the widely-publicised rape murder of a young student in Dhangadi has still not been resolved even after three years.
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The business community in Kailali has started handing out dignity bags for women returnees at the border with basic necessities. But the facilities in Kailali do not meet even the minimum standards in the government’s own guidelines which require quarantine centres to have medical officers, health checks every day, two main meals and two snack packets a day. They are also supposed to have an ambulance on call, adequate water and sanitation and beds at least 3m apart.
Anita Joshi, 30, also returned from India and is worried that her ten-year-old son is not eating anything. “I will probably be sick not because of the virus but because of the lack of food,” she says.
As India relaxes its lockdown and trains services restart, the number of Nepali workers returning from India has risen to 5,000 a day, and a third of them are women.