Nepal's authorities have largely failed to comply with their obligations under international law as well as the country's constitution to guarantee the right to health of all people facing the continued threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the International Commission of Jurist (ICJ) in a briefing paper published today.

The 50-page briefing paper, 'Unprepared and Unlawful,' reveals a continuous pattern of deficiencies in public and private responses which were originally evidenced in the first wave of the pandemic in 2020 and have continued to date.

During the pandemic's resurgence in 2021, the government failed to prepare for the predictable health crisis, leading to lack of oxygen, hospital beds, ICU capacity and medical equipment.

"Nepal, like other countries, must respect, protect, and fulfil the right to health of all inhabitants to the fullest extent of its abilities, but our research shows that the Nepali government failed to prepare for the 2021 resurgence properly, despite clear direction from the country's Supreme Court," said Karuna Parajuli, ICJ legal advisor.

The report also addresses the impact of significant delays and alleged impropriety in Nepal's COVID-19 vaccine procurement and rollout processes.

"As it stands Nepal's COVID-19 vaccination rollout plan has not been transparent or timely – the government is set to miss its own targets for vaccination. Problems with vaccination rollout deepen existing challenges that must be resolved by the Nepal authorities ranging from overcharging of private hospitals of COVID-19 patients to inadequate provision of health services for non-COVID-19 patients, to attacks against health workers and overcrowded prisons," Parajuli elaborated.

In the paper, ICJ also provided a set of concrete recommendations to assist Nepali authorities to comply with their legal obligation and prepare for further waves of COVID-19, including ensuring that the right to health is guaranteed to all people, in law and practice, without discrimination, an uninterrupted supply of oxygen, hospital beds, ICU capacity and COVID-19 related medicines and equipment in all hospitals serving COVID-19 patients, preventing overcrowding in prisons and ensure the implementation of all necessary COVID-19 health and safety measures.

The paper also recommended the government to ensure that all private healthcare providers, including hospitals and laboratories, comply with legal requirements including those relating to the cost of testing and treatment for COVID-19, urgently develop and widely publish a COVID-19 vaccine acquisition and distribution plan.

Furthermore, detailing concrete measures to ensure non-discriminatory access to COVID-19 vaccines to all inhabitants of Nepal as expeditiously as possible, and proactively disclose and publicize contracts with pharmaceutical companies for the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure transparency and accountability have also been recommended.