Health workers in Nepal brave a raging river to bring Covid-19 vaccine to villages

·3-min read

Days of heavy rains and flooding threatened to delay the vaccination of more than a hundred residents of villages in Mustang, a rural region of northern Nepal. However, on June 15, a local health worker braved the rushing waters to make a precarious transfer of several coolers full of vaccine doses, in a video that has spread on social networks in Nepal.

Harsh weather conditions have caused the overflow of the Kali Gandaki River into the main road that connects several villages in the region of Mustang, Nepal. This flooding nearly blocked health workers from bringing Covid-19 vaccines from a central health office in Lete to residents of Kobang and Tukuche villages, who were set to receive their second doses.

A local health assistant at a clinic in Kobang, Lal Bahadur Rokaya, decided to brave the flooding and raging waters to bring the vaccine to his patients. He used an iron rod from a nearby construction site to slide coolers full of 120 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine across the water.

In this video, shared on TikTok June 15, Lal Bahadur Rokaya (left, in white) receives a cooler full of Covid-19 vaccines from a municipal health worker.

‘The people here are in need of vaccines and no one could help us’

The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to Lal Bahadur Rokaya:

It’s not easy to get the vaccine here. The district health office is far away from the village, and the road is very difficult, even more since it has been raining for several days excessively. The water is rising and there is no bridge. The people here are in need of vaccines and no one could help us. The district health officials said they couldn’t cross the river, so I went there to meet them and brought the vaccines across the river. I was afraid at the time, but all the people at the health post were very happy to receive the vaccine.

The vaccines that Lal Bahadur Rokaya received from across the flooding river were destined for two clinics in nearby villages. Health workers from the clinic in neighbouring Tukuche trekked through flooded riverbeds to bring their share of the vaccines back to their patients.

Health workers from a clinic in Tukuche, Nepal trek through the river to bring doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to their village.

Since June 12, the start of the monsoon season and heavy, ongoing rainfall in central Nepal have led to rising rivers, landslides and flooding throughout the region, destroying infrastructure, blocking roads and causing at least seven people to go missing. Hundreds of people have been displaced by the extreme weather.

As it emerges from a difficult second wave, Nepal has vaccinated around 8% of its population with one dose. The country has relied on vaccine donations from India, China and the global Covax program.

There have been more than 600,000 coronavirus infections and 8,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in Nepal, a country of around 30 million people.

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