This 25-year-old nurse’s video has almost a million views on TikTok. Photo: Usha Mahato
In the TikTok video, four men are seen against a stunning backdrop. Some of the highest peaks in the world are behind them, as they delicately balance on a pole, carrying oxygen cylinders above them across a raging stream. An almost unreal waterfall is in the background.
The video doesn’t show it, but the men successfully crossed, according to a nurse in Nepal’s remote Himalayas who posted the viral video, which showed the extreme lengths medical personnel must go to help COVID-19 patients in some of the most remote corners of the world.
As the video reached a million views, thousands congratulated Nepal’s frontline workers, who are battling a vicious coronavirus outbreak in a strained and under-resourced health system that’s logistically almost impossible to navigate in its mountainous regions.
The country of 28 million, where a third of the population lives close to the poverty line, is one of South Asia’s worst-affected countries. There have been more than 8,000 coronavirus-related deaths and close to 600,000 people in Nepal have been infected with the virus.
In rural Nepal – where there is little to no healthcare infrastructure – the undrivable and landslide-prone terrain made the country-wide oxygen shortage even trickier to navigate.
Usha Mahato, a nurse on pandemic duty in the remote Nepali district Manang who posted the video, said it reflected the great challenge of bringing COVID-19 supplies to Nepal’s rural pockets.
“Our Manang district is a very remote place,” the 25-year-old told VICE World News. On June 3, Mahato, who often documents frontline lives on her TikTok page, shot the video of two volunteers helping her transport oxygen supplies from the neighbouring provincial district Gandaki.
Manang – which is about 170 miles from Mount Everest – has a population of about 6,000. Its roads are considered one of the world’s most dangerous.
“These roads are motorable but due to floods, there is no transport of vehicles right now,” said Mahato.
Getting COVID-19 supplies from the closest government hospital takes 14 hours. These cylinders were for 12 coronavirus patients in Mahato’s village.
Usha Mahato (right) said frontline workers like her have been bringing COVID supplies despite problems of access to remote parts of her district. Photos: Usha Mahato
“These men in the video, in fact, were labourers involved in construction of the road,” she said. “I barely knew them but requested them to help me carry those cylinders across the waterfall. They helped me out without saying a word. I genuinely salute their selfless act.”
Amid the raging pandemic, Mahato said her video shows hope. “People like these are what Nepal is known for,” she added.
It’s a much needed dose of positivity. While a deadly second wave of the pandemic seems to be under control in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, experts say it is unclear how bad the situation is in the country’s remote villages. Nepal was reporting about 9,000 new coronavirus cases every day a month ago, but those alarming numbers have since halved.
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