Aythos has worked in Baasbotey for almost three years, conducting agricultural programs such as diverse vegetable trainings, and launching our health program in 2018. In July, Aythos staff conducted a needs assessment in Baasbotey to understand how COVID-19 is affecting the community and what their specific needs are during this time. We surveyed three key informants, who were members of the village, a community volunteer health worker, and a local government official. These phone interviews offered useful insight into the situation in Baasbotey, especially since our staff is unable to travel out to the village due to the pandemic.
Our respondents painted a picture of job loss and rising food insecurity in Baasbotey as a result of COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdown that was in place for four months. Travel restrictions made it difficult to reach markets, and as a result, they are practically empty. Where food is available, it is often too expensive, as prices have risen dramatically since the pandemic began. Insects have eaten many of the farmers’ crops, damaging harvests. People are worried their food will run out, and they have had to stop eating certain foods and reduce the amount they are eating. Though all seem to be impacted, limited access to food has particularly affected the discriminated Dalit and the homeless. While food insecurity and declines in income are increasing stress levels among the community, there is a lack of mental health awareness and no resources for community members to access.
The nearest health facility is nearly an hour and a half from Baasbotey, and it provides only basic services. There are no doctors or nurses, only a health assistant and midwife. Though the local government official, volunteer, and village members view this facility as adequate, it only provides basic primary care, sexual and reproductive care, and maternal and child care. It also provides some nutritional services such as deworming tablets, vitamin supplements, and iron pills for pregnant women, however our community health worker has informed us that some national programs like immunization and Vitamin A supplementation have been postponed because of COVID.
To address the needs of Baasbotey residents, Aythos has focused on both immediate relief and longer-term initiatives. Earlier this summer, we distributed food and soap to 26 households in Baasbotey, and we have just completed our second food relief distribution program there, this time supplying 40 households in the village. We are also building nutrition lessons into our programs, and considering various initiatives to raise awareness of mental health issues as well.
To address the loss of income that Bassbotey residents are experiencing, our Nepali staff have been working on developing a training on modern tailoring ideas. Tailoring is a traditional occupation for Baasbotey residents, and we hope that this training will improve their ability to sell their products and generate income.
Aythos will continue to adapt and develop our work to meet the needs of our beneficiaries in Baasbotey during this difficult time. If you would like to help us in our mission to support our partner communities, please visit: https://www.aythos.org/donate.
Laura Turner, Health and Nutrition Programs Intern