It was the end of January when I had started going to Nepal Red Cross Society Headquarters for further discussion on a concept note that I had submitted. While I was expecting to work closely with NRCS on the concept note that would materialize soon, one of the Officers in NRCS said: “We are about to activate the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for COVID-19 response and you may contribute as a volunteer in the same unit”. As being a public health student, I was able to grab the opportunity and looking forward to a wonderful experience. After some preparatory work, on 6th Feb, EOC was activated. I and my friend of the same academic background joined there. We were first oriented about the role of EOC and secondly with our assigned task. Our responsibility was to collect various activities and information from 77 districts of Nepal and to draft a daily situation report on COVID-19.
Basically, the Red Cross is mainly known for working in emergency situation for humanitarian response. As COVID-19 was new for all of us. And, working in an emergency situation is really not an easy thing. But it has enhanced my problem-solving and stress coping skills as well. On one side I was grabbing the opportunity and, on another side, I was facing challenges also. But continuous guidance and supervision from internal staff, as well as appropriate cooperation from districts, made easier to perform the assigned task.
Besides this, I was anxious because globally confirmed cases were increasing rapidly and it was spreading across the country. I used to imagine that developed countries like the USA, UK, Italy, and others were struggling to react efficiently in COVID-19 situations and what would be in the case of Nepal?
Until March 23rd there was only one case recorded and that has been recovered also. Everything was fine until then. The second case was reported on this same date in Nepal thus, lockdown started. Moreover, we were said to work from home. Staying at home for a long time made me bored but the situation was like that and I used to satisfy myself. On 13th April which is also Nepali New Year, two people from my apartment tested positive for COVID-19. It was big national news over here. I was stressed because a large number of media with big cameras and police had surrounded us and we were sealed. For at least two days, my phone was busy receiving calls and replying messages from a number of people and saying the same things all the time i.e. we are fine and they were from different towers. Fortunately, around 300 people tested for COVID-19, all were negative, and these things made the entire apartment people very happy.
Now I came to know frontline health workers are not the only ones responsible and accountable for COVID-19. All the people are equally responsible to prevent and aware of others from their own level. Though cases are increasing but the recovery of patients is also been increased simultaneously. In the context of Nepal, people are aware of COVID-19. Despite this, due to stigma people are not isolating themselves and not coming up for testing. May be stigma is playing a major role over here.
Volunteers are the heart of the Red Cross. In addition, volunteering in this pandemic situation enhanced my professional skills. Thank you, Nepal Red Cross Society, for all these.