The news of Covid infections in Karnali do not readily reach the capital. But remote districts in this far-flung region have some of the highest coronavirus fatality rates in the country.
There are multiple factors involved: poverty, limited health and transport infrastructure, shortage of medical staff, lack of testing, and family members returning from India. People in the remote mountains of this historically neglected region now also have to survive on limited food.
A recent survey in outback communities of Karnali province shows that the most serious socio-economic impact of the pandemic has been on access to food – a full one-third of households surveyed reported not having enough food. Another 19% said they were even heavier in debt, and 14% lost their livelihood.
To be sure, the Karnali has suffered chronic food insecurity even before the pandemic, and almost every household has at least one member working in cities or in India. But the Covid crisis has made it worse.
The survey was conducted among 395 people across 21 Karnali municipalities by USAID BHAKARI program implemented by the global humanitarian aid group Mercy Corps with an aim to improve food security in the region. Ten per cent of those polled were people with disabilities.