The LDCs will not be able to combat the coronavirus unless the developed countries help them contain it in time

Nepal's quest to graduate from a Least Developed Country (LDC) to lower-middle income status by 2026, the new deadline set by the United Nations, will not be realised unless the developed countries and development partners cooperate with it in areas of productive capacity, infrastructure, energy and connectivity.

All efforts made so far by Nepal to achieve the set goal of graduating to lower-middle income status by the revised date has been put on hold all of a sudden following the outbreak of the coronavirus since last year when all economic activities across the country have been suspended for more than oneand-a-half years. Millions of people have either been laid off or forced out of their jobs due to the prolonged lockdown and the recent prohibitory orders imposed by the government in almost all the districts.

Should this scenario continue for more months, the country's economy will move in a downward trend, which is sure to create social and political tensions in the country.

Addressing the Joint Thematic Event of the UN General Assembly and Economic and Social Council and Least Developed Countries through a pre-recorded video on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Raghubir Mahaseth said Nepal was committed to make the graduation process smooth and sustainable by mobilising finances from the public and private sectors as well as internal and external resources. He also urged the development partners to live up to their financial commitments to help address the investment gaps in the LDCs. Mahaseth said the target of the Istanbul Programme of Action to enable graduation of half the LDCs remained unrealised, and called for more collective action to meet the collective ambition.

The UN fifth Conference on the LDCs to be held in Doha in January 2022 must be a conference of hope grounded in adequate financing and means of implementation to ensure that the LDCs will not be left behind, he said.

While addressing the event, Mahaseth said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the widening gap of resources facing the LDCs. While the rich countries have been able to mobilise a lot of resources to combat the virus, stimulate the economy and vaccinate their population, the LDCs have been struggling to make ends meet. As a result of the pandemic, the poor countries' revenues have shrunk and the tax base strained. In this scenario, the LDCs will not be able to graduate to the group of lower-middle income countries unless they receive massive support from the developed world, especially in the fight against the virus that has already killed thousands of people in Nepal. Besides providing medical logistic support to the LDCs, the developed countries should also help procure the needed vaccines at an affordable price, that too, at the earliest possible. At the same time, the UN and the developed countries that have produced the anti-COVID vaccines should temporarily suspend the intellectual property right so that the people in the poor countries can be immunised at lower cost. They should understand that the entire world will not be safe from the pandemic unless everybody, including the poor and rich alike, is safe.

WHO's recognition

Nepal's health workers must be heartened by the acknowledgement by the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the great efforts being made by them to vaccinate those even in the remote districts of the country. The WHO official's appreciation comes following a video clip on the social media that showed the struggle being put up by the health workers to transport vaccines in a flooded river in the mountainous district of Mustang. Indeed the sacrifices of these frontline workers are immense in the battle against the coronavirus, with many having died or been infected while treating the sick.

Health workers face not only the discomfort of working long hours in a PPE suit, unable to eat or even go to the rest room, but at times also a hostile environment, where their life is threatened by a patient's relatives. Health professionals have been beaten and abused at their work place during the treatment of COVID and other patients. It is only right that both the government and the people learn to recognise the tremendous efforts of the health workers to deliver the best of care even against all odds and provide them with incentives and facilities where feasible.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 21, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.