The vanguard role of local governments in combating Covid-19

It is highly imperative that the identified measures to counter the outbreak of the Covid-19 should effectively occur at the community level. Effecting identified control measures as recording the movement and activity of people with recent international travel history, inspecting health condition of the returned migrants and their families, enforcing proper self-quarantine of individuals and households under suspicion, and testing individuals showing certain symptoms at community level is especially significant while the country is still at the early stages of contagion. As such, containing the contagion by taking actions at community level whilst the local transmission is still deemed exemption should be a priority in order to avoid further spread of the contagion.

Local government bodies at the forefront to restrain the contagion

In speaking of taking action at a community level to counter the pandemic, the role of local-level government bodies appears at the forefront. Meanwhile, the federal setup of the country already awards certain jurisdictions to local-level government bodies that specifically recognizes their role on combating epidemics at community level in line with the identified control measures. As such, the awarded jurisdictions mentioned in the Constitution of Nepal, 2015 and Cabinet unbundling report, 2017 specifies autonomous and concurrent authority of local level bodies in ensuring basic health & sanitation standard, public health surveillance, public health emergency addressing mechanism, epidemic control, and control of communicable diseases at local-level. Not to mention, the very roles expected from local governments in areas of public health is also discussed in Local Government Operation Act, 2017.  

An exemplary demonstration by local level government bodies in Sudoorpaschim

A trustable source maintains that local-level government bodies in Sudoorpaschim has remained exemplary in combating the spread of Covid-19 by effectively utilizing the very jurisdictions awarded to them by the current federal structure. As such, the bodies are known to have established monitoring mechanisms at each ward in order to conduct inspections and other necessary control measures discussed to avoid the spread of disease between households. In addition, the monitoring teams formed as part of the mechanism are also known to have been frequently coordinating with district & State hospitals when in need, and with other Federal and State-level government bodies when receiving resources as protective gears and testing equipment. It has also come to knowledge that such local monitoring mechanisms in Sudoorpaschim is the result of collaborative effort between autonomously functioning local health staffs, local political representatives, and other communal interest groups.

Sudoorpaschim is recognized to be one of the most vulnerable regions likely to be suffer from the contagion. The first transmissions arriving from the migrants returning from the western border of the country is feared to contagion the entire region and beyond. As such, it would not be exaggeration in recognizing the fundamental role of local-level government bodies in Sudoorpaschim in containing the contagion at the individual or household level whilst currently possible. Besides, this practice adopted by these local-level government bodies of Sudoorpaschim is also a valuable lesson for other local-level government bodies across the country to take similar initiative of expediting the identified control measures at community level. After all, taking action at the grass-root level is probably the only effective resolution and opportunity the country has got in restraining the spread of Covid-19. Contagion at or beyond the community level (stage 3) is mostly likely to easily overwhelm the public health system of the country.

All thanks to provision of local self-governance that has enabled the battle at the communal front

Meanwhile, experts reckon that local-level government bodies in Sudoorpaschim would not have been able to expedite their local efforts towards combating Covid-19 if local political representation and adequate autonomy of the local-level government bodies being granted following the inception of federalism were absent. The adverse condition for local governments to function under the authority of the central administration would have completely thwarted their ability to take the battle against the pandemic from the communal front. This assumption holds amid the context that acknowledges the struggles of the Federal Government to address the pandemic whist it is yet tangled in red tape and multiple cases of corruption. Let alone the success of the Federal Government in expediting local-level efforts in a region furthest from the capital.

Prience Shrestha

Prience works in the research department at Samriddhi Foundation. And, he attempts to specialize in the field of Development Economics

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