The ministry should give top priority to provide the QR Code to the migrant workers who have taken jabs and received work permits

Every time a new minister comes to office, s/he comes up with a new plan of action as if his or her predecessor(s) did little in addressing the pressing problems facing the ministry. Since the last general elections were held in 2017 and a new government was formed under the leadership of CPN-UML parliamentary party leader KP Sharma Oli, the Ministry of Health and Population has already seen six ministers taking charge in a row. It is perhaps the only ministry which has seen the most changes in its leadership in the last three-and-a-half years. The ministry has drawn flak from all sides for mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of the previous ministers were also accused of indulging in irregularities, which forced then PM Oli to replace them with new faces. The health ministers appointed by erstwhile PM Oli had focused their attention on procuring medical equipment, including oxygen cylinders, ventilators and vaccines. Health experts say most of the people died of the dreaded COVID-19 due to lack of oxygen and ventilators. By the time the NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government came to power, only 5 per cent of the total population had received vaccines against COVID-19.

This time around, newly-appointed Minister of State for Health and Population Umesh Shrestha announced the other day that his ministry would arrange up to 20 million doses of vaccines by mid-October, of which 9.7 million have already arrived.

In the coming two weeks, 1.6 million doses of Vero Cell donated by China and 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines gifted by Japan will arrive.

He said 4 million doses of Moderna for children, 5 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, 4 million doses of Pfizer vaccines and 2 million AstraZeneca vaccines were in the process of being procured. In total, 32.3 million doses of vaccines from different manufacturers will have been brought to the country by mid-January. Like his predecessors, he also said government's priority was on managing the COVID-19 vaccines to save people's lives.

He also laid out a plan of action to address the recent problem faced by the BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital in Chitwan, BPKIHS in Dharan and Bir Hospital in Kathmandu. He also announced the issuance of vaccination certificates from all the government hospitals. Many youths who are ready to set out for work abroad after taking the anti-COVID jabs have not been able to get the QR Code marked on their COVID-vaccine cards. When the migrant workers, who have received their work permits and visas from the host countries, will get the mandatory QR Code marked on their cards is uncertain. It is the migrant workers who are sending remittances back home to sustain the national economy even during the pandemic. Last year alone, the migrant workers from Malaysia and the Gulf countries sent remittances to the tune of Rs 870 billion, which is almost four times the country's capital expenditure. But they are the ones who have to resort to the streets demanding the QR Code on their anti-COVID vaccine certificates.

The ministry should give top priority to provide the QR Code to the migrant workers who have taken jabs and received work permits and visas.

ANFA controversy

It's been exactly a century since football became a national sport in Nepal, but its standard leaves much to be desired. The All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), the governing body of football in the country, was founded way back in 1951 and is responsible for the formation of the national team as well as club competitions. Despite the many decades that the sport has been around in Nepal, its ranking by FIFA has seen wide swings, from a high of 121 in 1993-94 to 196 in 2016, with its current position at 171 out of 210 countries. While there are many reasons for the poor performance of the national team in international events, power politics in the ANFA body is often a principal factor.

Currently, ANFA has been in the news after head coach Abdullah Almutairi resigned, showing differences with its senior vice-president Pankaj Nembang.

And on Monday, the spokesperson of ANFA quit his post over the handling of the dispute between the two. For sure, such controversies in ANFA time and again will hinder the growth of football in the country. Its members should be dedicated to the cause of football in Nepal, not be using the forum for fulfilling personal interests.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 4 2021, of The Himalayan Times.