NEPAL. Upper Mustang: The onset of the second wave of COVID-19 forced the world to follow strict lockdowns again. But this meant nightmarish times for the areas that are very difficult to reach even in normal times in Nepal, like Upper Mustang.
In an area where normal facilities and medical supplies are limited, lockdowns meant no work and no school for kids. The area has no trained medical staff either to address the outbreak of COVID. The pandemic in 2020 left most of the Nepalese people as mute spectators, and helplessly watch the pandemic shamelessly sweeping into their homes. And now, with a second wave hitting the area, COVID has now reached the upper highland Mustang.
Despite the isolation of Mustang, COVID has unfortunately found its way to the borderlands of Tibet and has reached the Chosar village, situated at 3,900 meters above sea level, and the capital of Lo Manthang. Chosar is one of the most isolated villages in Nepal and is more than a week’s trek from the small Jomsom airstrip or two hours by horse from the Tibetan border.
Officials at the District Health Office, said, “Due to the locals returning from Kathmandu and Pokhara where they work and reside, the district saw a moderate flow of traffic during the rise of the second wave of COVID-19. Various construction projects of roads and bridges in the district have seen a flow of workers from outside and contributed to the spread of the virus to the highlands of the districts. Pilgrims to the sacred sites at Muktinath have also helped spread COVID.”
According to the latest reports, there are currently 10 confirmed cases in Upper Mustang as of 28 May 2021, with seven cases in Chosar and three in Lo Manthang.
There are no hospitals in the villages in the area, including Chosar, Ghami, Tsarang, and Lo Manthang. Chosar village with a total population of around 620 has no electricity either. Most of these villages have only one very basic health post with a room with few beds to isolate in and no medical supplies for those needing treatment.
With no easy access to medical oxygen and adequate facilities, COVID patients can only get medical attention at Pokhara, but carrying a COVID patient to Pokhara is again not easy.
During this time of crisis, a number of people have come forward, like Veteran trekker, Margie Thomas, who has a special relationship with the people in Upper Mustang. Margie, locals in Chosar, Margie’s long-time friend, Tsewang Bista, who is a member of the Mustang Royal family, and his wife, Dr. Kesang Dika, all pitched in to help locals in the villages of Chosar, Ghami, Tsarang, and Lo Manthang.
The mobile equipment helped in the treatment of the sick at their homes only and helped prevent the spread of infection and avoid the sick from travelling far and in difficult terrain to seek treatment. This helped save lives and also provided psychological comfort to the local villagers. They now know they’re not alone in fighting this virus and have the support of well-wishers.
The entire world came forward and helped Nepal and its people by sending various medical supplies as humanitarian aid. Monetary donations, food supplies from across the globe are also pouring in and helping the people fight COVID.