Category Archives: Diary

UTTER SADNESS: Not only because a boy went missing….

Ujwal was merrily returning from school on the ill-fated day playing in the rain as it had started pouring at around 3:00pm that day. “He was jumping on the water-logged road and moving towards the ditch,” said an eyewitness. The eyewitness noticed that the boy was unaware of the ditch filled with water. “I shouted at him to stop, but the ecstatic boy did not listen to me and he fell into the ditch in no time,” said the eyewitness, who works at a bakery shop. “Other people who noticed my shouting gathered around the ditch, but the young boy disappeared within a fraction of seconds.” The boy had fallen into the drain on the evening of September 21. Five days later, the body of Ujwal Vishwakarma, 10, was found many kilometres downstream of the Bagmati River at the border of Lalitpur and Makawanpur district. – The Himalayan Times; 26 Sep 2021

This is an utter sadness, not only because a boy went missing under there, but more so because the accident (and many similar road-side incidents around the country) could have been prevented (even avoided with appropriate preventive measures in place) to begin with.

Photo (Screen Shot) Source: RONB, Viber, Nepal; Date: 23 September 2021

According to the police records, three people have died after falling into uncovered ditches and manholes inside Kathmandu valley in the last five years. Let’s face it, they had to give up their lives because the relevant authorities, politicians and the government repeatedly failed to act.

We need to be more careful around potholes, ditches and exposed manholes which could remain hidden (even in plain sight) under flooded conditions; especially when relevant authorities conveniently forget to put out warnings for ongoing traffic/pedestrians and fail to barricade/cordon such hazards.

Global efforts to stop rapid climate change might share the fate of inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

Climate change is, without doubt, the most challenging issue of our time; a crisis hovering over our heads, right now. It is, in fact, threatening our entire existence in this planet we call home.

Rapid climate change, like the COVID-19, knows no boundaries and respects no nationality. Its dire consequences are evident everywhere; from glacial lakes of the Himalayas down to the sea levels.

Since the problem is a global one, it clearly can’t be solved by a group of activists, organizations, leaders, politicians or even countries, for that matter.

Some critiques end up blaming capitalism and ever-increasing demand for economic growth for the climate change crisis. They suggest economic “degrowth” to be the solution. The proponents push for ecologically sustainable society with socio-environmental wellbeing as the indicator of prosperity. All that sounds good, but it seems a bit far-fetched argument, if not unrealistic.

The truth is every group of people and politicians on the left-right political spectrum has some idealistic view to stop rapid climate change; however, no political system has been able to demonstrate a sustainable model in true sense.

We spent over three decades in pep talks and we know that it didn’t work. Had it worked, the GHG emissions would have significantly decreased by now.

Moving forward, we will face more and more extreme environmental and ecological challenges which will be unavoidable as well as irreversible to a large extent.

And we are already running out of time! We don’t have time for more experiments, more political promises, more empty rhetoric, and more sustainability blah, blah, blah.

In a recent Youth4Climate summit (28-30 Sep 2021, Milan, Italy), Greta Thunberg rightfully said: “Build Back Better – blah, blah, blah. Green Economy – blah, blah, blah. Net Zero by 2050 – blah, blah, blah”.

Of course we need to be hopeful, but one thing we desperately need more than hope is real action on the ground. I have to agree with Greta when she says “Hope is not passive. Hope is not blah, blah, blah. Hope is telling the truth. Hope is taking action. And hope always comes from the people.” We must actively correct our past mistakes by immediately coming up with strictest actions to reduce GHG emissions in all fronts.

Politicians, global leaders, and governments play a pivotal role in bringing about the change that is necessary. And they can do this only if they coordinate and collaborate before it is too late. However, this seems very unlikely as long as their thinking is limited by national interests and geographical separations.

It is even worse when their motivations are influenced by ideals, personal gain, corruption and sheer indulgence of big tax payers, mighty corporates, campaign contributors, etc.

The ongoing inequitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution serves a pertinent scenario here.

These days, affluent countries are being blamed for holding supplies or even stockpiling more vaccines than they need for their entire population. They are planning for the third-jab or a booster dose for their population at a time when an entire continent of Africa is still struggling to vaccinate even 5 percent of its population.

Such restricted thought is allowing even more deadly variants of COVID-19 to emerge and spread across the globe, because an infectious disease like COVID-19 will remain a threat globally, as long as it exists anywhere in the world.

If things don’t change soon enough and so-called global leaders fail to see the bigger picture, it will be impossible to meet the global target set by the WHO; vaccinating 70 percent of the population of all countries by mid-2022.

I just wish that this would not be the case with the efforts to prevent rapid climate change, as more or less the same countries and politicians are involved to change our collective fate in this planet.

Covid-19: Emotional and Mental Wellbeing of Essential and Frontline Workers

The article earlier published in New Spotlight; May 23, 2021

“Organizations could start by establishing that their essential and frontline workers’ emotional and mental wellbeing sits at the top of their corporate business criteria.”

Essential and frontline workers are those who provide essential services or key public services including healthcare, social service, journalism, justice system, government services, food production, distribution supply chain, public safety, national security, transport systems, utilities, communication, key financial services, etc. During these challenging times of Covid-19 pandemic, they are suffering various kinds of anxieties, stress, depression, sleep disorders, uncertainties, prolonged separation from their loved ones, etc.

As time passes by, these traumatic experiences are most likely to reflect on their psychological state, probably in more ways than one. Exposure to prolonged excessive stress can also cause harmful effects on emotional, physical as well as social well-being of the frontline workers who are going through unprecedented level of work pressure during this pandemic.

The immensity of stress is such that it can easily lead to exhaustion, burnout, mental disorder, substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even suicidal thought or attempt.

Eventually this may translate into reduced quality of service, low productivity, non-compliance with required guidelines, increased risk of infection, mistakes, accidents, and compromised emergency response capacity, etc. in the healthcare as well as other essential public service sectors.

The situation is dire out there and we are certainly living through vulnerable time. Recent studies conducted among health care workers showed that 74% suffered stress, 41% reported anxiety, 34% had symptoms of insomnia, and 24% felt depressed.

Another survey carried out among nurses revealed that a whopping 38% were working with high level of stress. It is likely that a big chunk of the sufferers may develop PTSD resulting in long-term impact on their mental health, emotional wellbeing, career decisions, personal relationships, social skills, etc.    

Acknowledging the emotional part of dealing with this pandemic is a huge stepping stone towards managing work stress of the frontline workers. It is important to formalize the fact that we are all experiencing some level of anxiety, loneliness and isolation at our workplaces.

Therefore, the first logical step is to face the tragedy head-on and bring the topics directly on the work floor of the healthcare and essential service providing institutions. Normalizing these feelings and experiences within the organization helps employees feel comfortable in sharing their feelings.

Moreover, if the top leadership is open and supportive as well, it helps create a culture that can address mental health issues of essential and frontline workers more favorably.

Work-related stress originates when workers are presented with work overload, demands and pressures that are beyond their capacity and which challenge their ability to cope with the situation.

Stress occurs in a variety of work circumstances but is often made worse when employees feel they have limited resources, little control over work processes and even less support from supervisors and colleagues they work with.

All concerned parties must sincerely acknowledge the fact that the work-related stress due to Covid-19 is for real and it is severely affecting mental health of our frontline workers.

The demanding work environment is putting their physical as well as psychological health at risk every day. Under the circumstances, relevant authorities, governing bodies and the responsible management teams must put extra efforts to provide these tireless angels a work environment that should feel safe and free from negativities, such as violence, discrimination, insecurities, harassment, isolation, etc. at the least.

The management team may ask the frontline workers to take appropriate actions to deal with the risk of infection, at the same time cope with the work-related stress. It may also advise them to offer each other personal and professional support which in turn improves their collective performance, personal relations and job satisfaction.

Workers may be urged to keep calm and stay mentally or emotionally strong. These behaviors are necessary but, let’s be honest, are they helpful enough to maintain emotional and mental wellbeing of the essential workers? It would be really unfortunate if the organizations limited themselves to such simplistic solution which is easier said than done.

During difficult times like these, employees’ change in attitude (helpful behaviors as mentioned earlier) may come rather naturally, at least initially; however, it may gradually fade away and the employees may not behave the same over the time.

Therefore, this behavioral change needs to be reinforced and most importantly integrated into the culture of the organization itself. Such efforts to change or tweak the organizational culture will be successful and sustainable only when employers, top level management and responsible health administrators take the initiative seriously.

A positive health and safety culture cannot be achieved overnight, but it is clear that the change starts at the top and then follows a top-down approach. Organizations could start by establishing that their essential and frontline workers’ emotional and mental wellbeing sits at the top of their corporate business criteria.

People at the leadership positions must be sensitive enough to understand and feel the emotional challenges, psychological pain, and physical/mental exertion arising from the work that the frontline workers do so relentlessly.

Employers must be aware of the immediate needs (problems, priorities, work overload stress and even personal issues if any) of their staff and must provide with proper care, safety and support.

All the staff should be highly encouraged and arranged to have conversations and consultations in a one-on-one settings because empathy and assurance from the authority/manager can go a long way.

These leaders, managers, administrators and supervisors of relevant organizations must also understand that their frontline workers’ emotional and mental wellbeing will have direct impact on the valuable services they provide so selflessly and which the entire country depends on so desperately.

Our hearts go out to all the frontliners who are putting their lives on the line and battling this pandemic on our behalf. These are tough times and the least we can do is support and motivate our heroes to fight this nightmare; we fight, we endure and yes, collectively we shall overcome this.

The article earlier published in New Spotlight; May 23, 2021