It has been nearly a year and a half but the nation is still not free from the danger of the virus as a majority of the population is yet to be vaccinated. Children are confined indoors as educational institutions have not been allowed to conduct physical classes yet. Children living with their parents have not had to face such difficult times as they are being provided for by their parents but what about those unfortunate orphans who live in shelter homes.
“The situation during the second phase of the prohibitory order was a fragile one for us,” says Bidya Upadhyay Neupane, Chairperson of Nepal Children’s Organisation (Bal Mandir). The establishment is a non-governmental organisation that provides shelter to orphans and even kids who have been found by the police and whose parents cannot be located.
During the second prohibitory order, 59 out of the 150 children living in Bal Mandir tested positive for the COVID-19 and Neupane mentions it was a harrowing time for them. “I was really worried then about how we could maintain social distance among the children as we have space constraint due to the ongoing construction works," she says.
Neupane says she is thankful to the government for providing the necessary assistance to the children. "The government arranged for the children infected with the coronavirus to be quarantined at the National Ayurveda Research and Training Centre in Kirtipur, which was like a God-send," she smiles. "The kids are safe, happy and back at the organisation now."
“They are back here in much better health and things are also going well. All of them have joined online classes and normal activities have resumed. Thankfully we haven’t had COVID cases since then,” she adds.
Meanwhile, Uma Devi Basnet, President of Srinjansil Children Welfare which is located in Kageshwori Manahara, relates her experience during the first lockdown that the government had imposed. "Initially, I was in a state of panic wondering where we would get the funds from if everything is locked down," she mentions.
"We are a small organisation but having said that what we need to understand is that there are 17 children living with us and providing for them would have been a Herculean task if we tried to do it all on our own," Basnet states. She mentions the organisation was established in 2008 and they not only provide shelter and food but also education to the children staying with them.
"However, we were lucky in the sense that we never faced any dearth of funds. Many Nepalis living abroad kept donating and we were able to manage things," she explains. Basnet adds that even the neighbours living around the organisation helped in whatever way they could.
Neupane, mentions that though they did not face any problem in managing daily essentials the biggest problem was in keeping the children confined. "With construction activities taking place there was no way we could allow them outside," she explains, adding, "And when children are not allowed to go out and have fun it definitely affects their personal development."
She further says that just providing shelter and two square meals is never enough for children. "They need to be able to do things in a free environment which the prohibitory order didn't allow them to do so."
Both Neupane and Basnet mention that one of the most difficult tasks they have been facing is related to the education of the children.