As the coronavirus emerged as a global threat, Mercy Corps Nepal began taking steps to ensure the safety of its staff and partners, ensure continuity of program activities and proactively engage with the government’s effort to contain the spread of COVID 19. Mercy Corps Nepal formed an internal taskforce on February 21st to adapt with the current crisis and to effectively coordinate between the country staff and its partners and serve as a focal point to the MC global team, government stakeholders and other peer organizations. The taskforce is active on developing contingency plans for all MCN activities, work on risk communication community engagement activities and responding to the crisis.
As of March 24th, 2020, a nationwide lockdown came into effect, hampering normal life along with all the project activities of Mercy Corps Nepal. The Nepal office has adopted Work From Home Policy and immediately started to engage in Risk Communications Community Engagement activities and is currently working with various donors to engage in emergency response activities. The office is also actively engaged in all the activated clusters of the government and other agencies working to minimize the risk and damage of the pandemic and its collateral impact in the different communities.
Ongoing Community Engagement MC activities
|SN||Activities||Target Population||Location||Implementing Partners||Status|
|1||Distribution of basic hygiene kits (hand washing soap) and awareness raising/messaging to the community people||5358 HHs and more than 25000 population||Baitadi (Dilasaini and Dogadakedar Rural Municipality), Dadeldhura (Aalital Rural Municipality and Parshuram Municipality)||Nepal Red Cross Society Kailai and Kanchanpur, IDEs Dadeldhura and SADA Baitadi||Ongoing|
|2||Radio PSAs on awareness on COVID-19 in local languages of Tharu, Rana Tharu and Doteli||500,000 estimated listeners with more than 350,000 Tharu listeners, the majority ethnic community of Kailali||Kailali District||Radio Dailymail 94.6 MHZ, Dhangadhi, Paschim Today FM 88.8 Mhz, Dinesh FM, Radio Kailali, Koseli FM, Radio Manko Majheri, Radio Namaste Tikapur, Sunaulo FM Masuria||Ongoing, Broadcasting in 8 FM stations 12 times a day starting March 22nd|
|3||Radio PSAs on awareness on COVID-19 in local languages in Baitadi and Dadeldhura district||300,000 estimated reach as per the reach of the radio station in Baitadi and Dadheldura||Trying to reach the whole of Baitadi and Dedeldhura districts to the most vulnerable population||Radio Parshuram, Dadeldhura, Radio Baitadi and Niglasaini FM, Baitadi||Ongoing, broadcasting|
Rapid Assessment: To garner a better understanding of the MCN communities and their awareness level on COVID-19, STEM II, the education project of MC Nepal, carried out a quick survey starting March 22nd, 2020. The survey also tried to find safeguarding issues among children, especially girls during emergency periods. After a brief orientation with the Social Mobilizers on the goals and objectives of the survey, its questionnaire and target communities, the survey was carried out in Kailali district, one of the MCN working areas in the southern plains of the Far Western Region of Nepal. The survey included 58 MCN participants of MCN STEM II education project where 11 participants had to be interviewed via phone due to the curfew issued in Dhangadhi starting 2 o’clock Tuesday, March 23rd, 2020. The participants, mostly school girls of the MCN education project showed a high level of awareness of the issue. REPORT
MRED II through its implementing partners and Community Disaster Management Committee (DMCs) started a similar survey starting the first week of April in four districts of Dadheldhura, Baitadi, Kailali and Kanchanpur. The assessment this time will focus more towards awareness level on access to information, toll free numbers, government contact points, rumor tracking, etc. The assessment was carried out under four Program Coordinators of the four districts via phone with community members and different market actors of the project i.e. local agro-vets, dairy and sugarcane industries, milk collection centers and cooperatives. The assessment also seeks to find out the economic impact on such local entrepreneurs, small-scale industries and enterprises of the remote regions of far west Nepal.
Community Level awareness programs:
As part of the RCCE, MCN during the initial phases before the lockdown aligned its project activities with the newly adopted risk communication community engagement activities to share information on coronavirus, its dos and don’ts and how to avoid getting sick and transferring it to others. The messages were provided through Information Education Communication materials as well as orientation at community level interactions, training, workshops and meeting. Mercy Corps Nepal distributed the pamphlets and posters made available by the local government offices to its communities through partner cooperatives.
Mercy Corps offices in Nepal also worked to ensure that staff were well informed about COVID-19. Information posters on best prevention practices were placed in strategic places of the office premises to encourage staff to follow precautions to prevent the transfer of coronavirus. In addition, the MCN taskforce distributed IEC materials to all their staff along with extra materials to distribute to their relatives and community members.
Radio PSA: Mercy Corps Nepal rapidly started to disseminate awareness information through Radio PSAs in the four districts of far western province of Nepal with an aim to reach more than 1 million people in the region. To reach the most vulnerable and marginalized population, the initial radio PSAs were aired in three local languages of Tharu, Ranatharu and Doteli with general information of the virus, its dos and donts and how to prevent the virus.
After the initial broadcast of the radio programs, the MCN education project stated developing Radio PSAs that were more targeted to school going children, their safeguarding issues and proper utilization of time during lockdown. Twp Radio PSAs have been aired focusing on the aforementioned issues.
Coordination with peer organizations and local government: As part of Community Engagement Activities, Mercy Corps Nepal is working with other peer organizations working in the Sudur Paschim for a more coordinated and collaborative approach to prevent the outbreak. The Dhangadhi team organized the first meeting with the various INGOs working in the area on March 18th so as to get a better understanding of all the activities of the various organizations in the region and seeking a way forward with effective coordination for upcoming activities.
As the lockdown continued, MCN has been actively engaged in all the cluster groups that were activated after the increased threat of the outbreak. The coordinated effort with the government and other international agencies has particularly been helpful in working in specific clusters in specific areas for a more organized and collaborative response against the threat.
Virtual training and orientation to the community level Disaster Management Committee (DMC) and Task Force members: Following the nationwide lockdown order which came into effect on Tuesday, 24th March 2020, Mercy Corps Nepal DRR project – MRED II – started conducting virtual training and orientation to the community level Disaster Management Committees (DMCs) and community level Taskforce members via telephone. The community DMCs members and Task Force members are disseminating the message to the community members. In some communities, DMC members have been able to distribute soap, masks, and sanitizer from their own resources and in collaboration with the local cooperatives in Kanchanpur district.