(Photo: Awareness poster developed by UNICOME Nepal)
Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global emergency on January 30, countries around the world have increasingly adopting sweeping measures, including full lockdowns, shutting down airports, imposing travel restrictions and completely sealing their borders to curb the virus spread. The Nepalese government acted promptly to revoke all of its promotional Visit Nepal 2020 campaigns, and other international events until further notice. On March 24, the government declared a state of emergency and imposed a nationwide lockdown.
This pandemic revealed the urgent need to protect workers irrespective of race, cast and creed. Temporary and low wage workers and workers in the informal economy have been one of the hardest-hit and faces increased risk especially if they have pre-existing health issues.
The US based Centre for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) published voluntary guidelines for employers on steps they can take to protect workers from COVID-19 transmission. However, only a minority of employees in Nepal here can benefit from any such steps adopted by the employers.
UNICOME Nepal stepped up to address this gap to better protect and ensure all essential workers can remain fit and healthy during this pandemic. Some of the major steps include:
- Raising awareness through an urgent press release issued immediately when the nationwide lockdown was announced. The release urged employers to provide a safe workplace and recommended the use of physical distancing, masks, adequate supply of hand soaps and sanitizer, good housekeeping, and to remain vigilant on regular cleaning and disinfecting.
- Facilitated workers and their family to obtain food relief distributed by the Nepalese Government.
- Develop a guideline on protective measures for workers in the food and grocery stores; supplemented with an awareness poster on safety measures for both employees and employers.
- Released a follow up press release to urge employers to help their workers tide through the lockdown period with an advance of at least a month’s salary.
- Utilise local area media like newspapers and FM radio to continuously remind workers to stay safe and healthy.
UNICOME Nepal remains committed to work with all relevant stakeholders to get through this lockdown period, and it welcomes any donations to help struggling workers, the majority of whom are daily-waged workers.