Media CenterCRS Gravely Concerned Over Nepal's COVID-19 Spike

Photo by Prakash Gopali for CRS

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
Jennifer Hardy
Catholic Relief Services
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Baltimore, Maryland:
Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
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BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, May 6, 2021 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is alarmed by the rapid spike of COVID-19 cases in Nepal, which is overwhelming hospitals and could pose a significant public health threat should the uptick continue unchecked.

“Nepal is quickly becoming a pandemic hot spot as Nepalese migrants return home from neighboring India, which is in the midst of its own crisis,” said Nripendra Khatri, communications coordinator for CRS in Nepal. “In Kathmandu, there are long lines in hospitals and pharmacies. Cremation centers around the country are filling up fast, and family members are unable to properly perform last rites. The virus is spreading here like wildfire.”   

COVID-19 cases in Nepal have been rising since April, jumping from 152 new cases per day at the beginning of the month to 4,831 new cases per day by April 29 - an uptick of more than 3,000 %. Worryingly, the RT-PCR test positivity rate has increased from 4% to 32% over the same time period. In some regions, as many as 90% of tests are returning positive. Meanwhile, hospital ICU units are reaching capacity.

“While limited surveillance and sequencing cloud the full picture of what’s behind these numbers, one thing is clear: it’s moving fast and is present in each of Nepal’s 77 districts,” Khatri said. “With record-breaking COVID deaths in India, the movement of people threatens Nepal’s smaller, less centralized medical system.”

Located in South Asia, Nepal’s borders include eight of the 10 tallest mountains in the world. It’s also one of the poorest countries on Earth, where rural communities are often hard to reach with assistance because of the mountainous terrain.

“Many places are only accessible on dirt roads or by foot. Responding to this crisis and ensuring remote villages have access to tests and supplies will be a massive undertaking,” Khatri said.

CRS will support local governments in building quarantine centers for returning migrants. In addition, because many families in Nepal live in cramped conditions where it’s nearly impossible to isolate a sick family member, CRS will adapt old buildings or create new structures to help meet the need for isolation spaces. CRS will also support the massive needs of families impacted by the lockdowns by providing food and hygiene supplies.

“The secondary impacts of the virus will be equally severe. Thousands of daily wage laborers are unable to work, and they’ll need our support to get through this difficult time,” Khatri said.

CRS and other Catholic agencies have been on the front lines of advocacy efforts to push for vaccine equity. CRS has also called for robust funding to support vaccine rollout efforts in countries like Nepal, which have little infrastructure to support such a massive undertaking.

“We need more resources going to our local health systems to help manage the critical logistics that a vaccine rollout requires,” Khatri said. “If we don’t end this pandemic everywhere, we won’t end it anywhere.”


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Nikki Gamer

Media Relations Manager

Nikki Gamer
May 6, 2021

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Media Relations Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement of...More