In a Briefing Paper published today, the ICJ calls on the Nepal authorities to do more to protect the right to health of all its inhabitants, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise while lockdown restrictions remain relaxed.
According to data from the World Health Organization, Nepal has since the onset of the pandemic recorded over 220,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and COVID-19 has contributed to over 1,300 deaths. However, in line with trends globally, the human rights impact of the pandemic extends beyond direct infections and deaths.
“The response of the government in Nepal to COVID-19 has been marred by a failure to fully respect the right to health of those living in Nepal. Unfortunately, despite repeated interventions by the Nepal Supreme Court the government’s public health responses often remain inconsistent with Nepal’s international human rights obligations,” said Mandira Sharma, the ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser in Nepal.
The Briefing Paper highlights a number of concerns with the COVID-19 response measures adopted by Nepal:
- Nepal has failed to fully implement Supreme Court orders relating to its obligations to realize the right to health in the context of COVID-19;
- Quarantine centres and isolation wards set up by the government have often lacked essential staff and services, which has compromised the health and welfare of those staying in them;
- Health services unrelated to COVID-19, including maternal reproductive health services and emergency medical services, have been compromised resulting in significant violations of the right to health and preventable deaths;
- The responsible authorities have failed to take sufficient measures to hold accountable of private healthcare providers who have unlawfully refused treatment on the basis of suspicion that a patient is COVID-19 positive;
- There has been insufficient protection and support to health workers who work under difficult circumstances often without the necessary equipment and PPE and have suffer societal stigma, discrimination and assault.
- There has been a lack of effective measures to protect the rights of women and girls exposed to gender-based violations and who have experienced difficulty in accessing justice during lockdown periods. Access to reproductive health services have been compromised.
- The authorities have failed to take sufficient measures to protect persons deprived of their liberty in overcrowded prisons that commonly lack adequate sanitation, healthcare and other services to ensure health and safety of prisoners.
- There has been a general failure of the Government to ensure that healthcare goods, services and facilities are accessible and affordable to all without discrimination of any kind.
The Briefing Paper outlines the international and domestic law and standards applicable to Nepal’s COVID-19 response measures, including jurisprudence of recent the Supreme Court judgments.
It makes a number recommendations to the responsible authorities with a view to achieving compliance with Nepal’s human rights obligations and more effective protection of the rights to health and other human rights in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mandira Sharma, ICJ Senior International Legal Adviser, e: Mandira.Sharma(a)icj.org
Nepal-Right to health-Advocacy-analysis brief-2020-ENG (full paper in PDF)