Innate Courage of frontline staffs in COVID-19 crisis

Mr Machindra Tamang, Construction Supervisor in the Bhutanese refugee camp of Morang, Nepal.

In early 1990s, thousands of Bhutanese fled from Bhutan due to the geopolitical conflicts between the Nepali origins in Bhutan and Dukpa communities as asylum seekers in Nepal. Initially, they were left with their barehanded and stayed haphazardly at the river bank areas of Mechi River in eastern part of Nepal. As it was a humanitarian concern to the international communities, Nepal government coordinated with UNHCR and managed seven different camps in Jhapa and Morang for their settlement. LWF Nepal took a lead in support from UNHCR and Nepal government to fulfill the humanitarian needs of these refugee and initiated partnership with UNHCR for the refugee operation in Nepal in 1992 and continuing its contribution for this humanitarian work. 

Despite many humanitarian challenges at the camps, the refugees are living under restricted circumstances with their plight. Although, more than hundred thousand refuges have been already gone for third country resettlement and above 80 percent in USA. Those who have shown reluctant for the third country resettlement are remaining with their limited humanitarian essentials due to the cut-up of the humanitarian services since 2017. It is very hard to get access on the income generation opportunities to the refugees due the national laws and policies which has made them further vulnerable in absence of humanitarian support services.

The current Bhutanese refugee project implemented by the LWF Nepal with financial support from UNHCR focused to the left over 6500 refugees and their self-reliance. As the heroic efforts of the staffs involved in this challenging task tackling many challenges are much-admired.  Mr. Machindra Tamang, who has been working since few years back with his passion, dedication as construction supervisor and facilitating to the shelter construction and repair maintenance of physical structures (roads, school building, hospitals and water supply management) at the camps and host communities. Significant numbers of vulnerable families have been identified as people with specific need and getting additional support for their safe and accessible living. He resides nearby camps and can have easily accessible to the people for his support. In 2019, Mr. Tamang has facilitated to construct 1150 numbers of stronger shelter and 475 latrines to the refugee families.  

With his great enthusiasm, Mr. Tamang facilitated to the construction at diverse sites at the camp and host communities even in the COVID-19 pandemic and country wide lock-down situation. His dedication towards the work has been clearly observed as he never take a leave in this circumstances instead continued his service with appropriate precautions measures and a close coordination with local government. Further, he maintained a good coordination with local government and ensured a conducive environment for the suppliers to manage the construction materials at the sites. He was happy to provide working opportunities to the refugees who have been lost their jobs due to coronavirus and lock-down imposed by the government. He shares, that although, “myself was in risk at the camps of possible infection, however, I found that the families who have no shelter was more at risk than me, which made me focused towards my work even in this risky situation” he adds.

Despite the expertise in technical facilitation, he was also proactive in any emergency operation at the camps during fire outburst and other unexpected natural calamities at the camps. He is very happy with the trust and friendship he has been receiving from the refugee and host communities. While talking about the overall satisfaction about the project activities he says “in addition to the shelter, the livelihood initiatives and strengthening the community based protection mechanism has shown great positive indication towards the self-reliant of the refugee. Camp secretary, Mr. Krishna Lingden, says “we got Mr. Machindra as a role model in the camps which has contributed to develop technical human resources at the camps” ‘We have been mobilizing the trainees who have been graduated from the technical facilitation of Mr. Tamang.