While the world is on guard against the coronavirus that the World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency, Nepal still seems at a loss. The epidemic spreading out of China’s Wuhan city has already claimed over 400 lives and is rapidly spreading around the globe.As there is high number of visitors between Nepal and its northern neighbor China, the risk is evidently high in Nepal (even though the number of Chinese visitors to Nepal has come down drastically following China’s travel ban abroad.)
Save the Children quotes Hassan Saadi Noor, Asia Regional Director, as saying: “Children are particularly vulnerable because they like to touch and taste the world around them, don’t understand health advice and tend to have weaker immune systems than adults.”
He warns that the risk is heightened in the countries whose healthcare systems are not prepared to “adequately screen for the virus or treat patients who have contracted it.”
APEX tried to find out how prepared our schools—always at a great risk to contagious diseases—are in coping with the possible health crisis. Our findings were not encouraging.
The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) does not have any special program for schools. As children spend a great deal of time in schools and frequently come in physical contact with their friends, this is too sensitive a place to ignore.
“We have been working on different issues related to coronavirus, but haven’t thought of anything particular for schools,” said Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, spokesperson at the MoHP. Private and Boarding Schools’ Organizations of Nepal, a major umbrella of Nepali private school owners, also seems negligent.
PABSON co-president DK Dhungana says the organization has not thought much about it yet. “Till date we haven’t done anything to ensure the safety of school students against coronavirus. But we soon plan on conducting awareness programs,” Dhungana says.
Dhungana, who is also the principal of the Lalitpur-based Radiant Readers’ Academy, says his school has informed its students about the virus and asked them to wear masks. “But we haven’t made it mandatory. Focusing too much on it can terrorize students and their guardians,” adds Dhungana.
Such is also the situation at Pragati Shiksya Sadan, a government-owned school in Lalitpur.
“Right now, we haven’t done anything as we have been busy with our sports meet. But in few days, we are planning to invite medical experts to conduct awareness classes,” says Surya Prasad Timalsina, the school principal.
Dr Sameer M Dixit, public health research scientist at the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, says school operators should pay special attention to students suffering from fever and cough, which could possibly be corona-related.
“Schools should strictly instruct those students to take rest and seek immediate treatment,” he says. “Similarly, special attention is required for those whose family members have recently returned from China.”
Dixit advices vigilance as “lately, the virus has also been found in people who showed no symptoms