We Care, We Share
A UN Bhutan’s initiative for resilience tools for COVID-19
The story of a nurse and the first COVID-19 case
Tshering Dolker, a 41-year old critical care nurse has been a nurse for the past 16 years and since January, she has been assigned to the COVID-19 isolation ward. Although a separate isolation ward was put in place as preparation should any Bhutanese test positive for COVID-19. Everyday she watched the news, there was something or the other in the news on the pandemic.
Like many Bhutanese, Tshering too did not panic about the thousands of people around the world who had tested positive for the virus. The team led by the head of Infection Control who is also the Deputy Nursing Superintendent was assigned to set up the isolation ward and the ICU.
It was a normal day at the Adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on 5 March, little did the team know that their day would begin with the announcement of the first COVID-19 positive case in Bhutan.
Tshering’s life took a complete turn when she came face to face with the pandemic which she had only heard about in the news. She was nervous. Scared that she might get infected. Worried that she might not live to take care of her children and parents.
“Many thoughts rushed in my mind, questions like why me? And why not others?” she said. “Yet I made my mind strong enough to serve my King and the country and thought this is the only time to serve the triple gem.”
She donned her personal protective equipment (PPE), she took in a deep breath and went on to treat the first COVID-19 positive patient.
After donning all the PPE and when we started taking care of the patient. A few hours into the treatment, she had forgotten how nervous she was and started to treat the patient like any other normal patient she has cared for in ICU.
Life wasn’t the same after that.
People started to distance themselves from Tshering and her colleagues, to the extent that they were treated like positive cases. Her mother was worried and almost went into depression. Like many frontline workers, Tshering too felt stigmatized, only to be now recognized for the work they do putting their life at risk.
As the first COVID-19 positive case left the country, Tshering felt the weight being removed from her shoulders. However, on her way back to Thimphu from the Paro International Airport, she started to miss her patient. She had gotten attached to him and worried about how he would survive the flight back home.
On her journey back to Thimphu, she sat back, took in a deep breath and told herself, her patient was going to make it.
Having experienced her first COVID-19 patient, Tshering, today is well prepared to serve her King, country and people. Someday, when everything is back to normal, this will be a chapter in her life that she would like to look back into and feel proud of herself.
We Care We Share
A UN Bhutan’s initiative for resilience tools for COVID-19
Life in the air during COVID-19
While the rest of the world has been asked to stay home, flight attendants are on the front lines, traveling to selected countries and getting exposed to hundreds of people every time there is a repatriation flight bringing Bhutanese living abroad back home. What is life in the air like during the COVID-19? Working as a flight attendant during the pandemic can be stressful, every flight is a chance to be exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Sadon Lhamo, a flight attendant with Druk Air for the past nine years, like many others, risks their health every time they board a plane. She flies out around three to four international flights in a month, after every flight she is kept at a restrictive positioning for 14 days. For those who flew in with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, all crew members onboard the flight are quarantined for 21 days. Sadon went on one repatriation from which six passengers were tested positive and is currently quarantined for 21 days.
Many flight attendants around the world say they are being treated like ‘vessels of disease.’ However, Sadon Lhamo said the safety measures put in place by her airline company makes her feel safe. All flight attendants are provided with personal protective equipment and have put in place procedures and working conditions to ensure the safety of the cabin crew.
“I feel more confident to go to work as we have the right measures in place,” said Sadon Lhamo. “I am happy to be able to do something in a crisis by going to work whenever I am required too. For right now, this is how I can contribute.”
While she was in her company’s restrictive positioning, she realized that everything she read or heard about COVID-19 was negative. To help Bhutanese from being scared, worried and overwhelmed by the situation, Sadon decided to start a social media space on Facebook and Instagram called “Happiness is still a place” to share positivity. She said, the name of the space reminds people about the good things in life and that amidst all the negativity around the pandemic, there is still so much that one could look forward to.
Sadon started with making videos and sharing it on the space to keep herself occupied while in isolation. With what started as a social media space to keep herself occupied, Happiness is still a place today has 1,646 followers on Instagram and 1,748 on Facebook. The page gives a platform for people to share their inspiring stories, stay home activities, awareness messages, contributions from people on what happiness means to them and musical jam every Monday to beat the Monday blues.
Through this Sadon hopes to inspire the people of Bhutan to always find love and joy in everything they do.
“Just as I have found love and joy from everyone who has been part of my journey with Happiness is still a place, I hope people find the same.” she said.
We Care We Share
A UN Bhutan’s initiative for resilience tools for COVID-19
Finding opportunities through passion
Mud-soaked boots with persistent leeches, big and small, studiously climbing up. Trudging up the hill, her feet thump bravely to reach her destination and fall into a deep sleep only to be woken up by the constant drumming of a downpour. She wakes up to face a new day, puts on a fresh new T-shirt, on the back it reads “Denkar’s Getaway.”
Tshering Denkar has left footprints along the high Dagala mountains, crawled inside the caves of Tsirang and donned the Brokpa Chupa while crunching icicles in the remote village of Merak.
While teaching English the prisoners in Northern Thailand, her students often asked her questions about the world beyond the prison gates. What is the world like? Are certain places the way it was before they entered the prison walls? Not being able to answer the questions made her ask certain questions to herself. There was little she knew about her own country let alone the places her students asked her about.
That was when she realized that she had limited her freedom to explore the world. And instead of packing her bags and heading off to see the world, she decided to come back home and explore her own country. There was so much yet to be explored, that’s when she decided to become a full-time vlogger and Bhutan saw the birth of its first travel vlogger.
Denkar like many others got hit by the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, she started to receive lesser number of vlogging proposals from tourism related agencies. However, that did not stop her from vlogging, instead she found new opportunities to encourage Bhutanese to travel domestically.
She started to promote the idea of Staycations with aim to encourage Bhutanese families to take the weekend off to make short family trips to villages and heritage sites. travel to other dzongkhags for short family holidays to villages and heritage sites.
“We seem to think that hiking, trekking, trying local delicacies or staying in hotels and visiting places within our country, is only for tourists, but it’s not. We can actually help boost our own local tourism and promote domestic economic activities,” said Tshering Denkar.
She also took some time to visit her village in Tsirang which has limited access to television and mobile connectivity. While she was there, she spoke to the people in her village creating awareness on COVID-19 and helped them understand the importance of practicing good hygiene and safe practices. Denkar, through a video message in Tsangla, helped in creating awareness among the people in eastern Bhutan.
Having completed the De-suung training recently, Denkar is currently engaging herself in patrolling the streets of Thimphu and advocating for safe practices to the people.
“It’s all about positivity and passion. There will always be opportunities. We just need to work hard. And then nothing can stop you, not even a rolling stone,” she said.
For more information on We Care, We Share initiative, please click here.
The Government of Bhutan is closely monitoring the coronavirus pandemic and while 70 cases have been confirmed in Bhutan, all were imported and no deaths have been reported. While the health impact has so far been limited in Bhutan as compared to many other countries, the economic and social effects will be significant. The health sector would be challenged to cope with a major outbreak while an extended period of limited movement of people, goods, and capital will have important consequences for the economy, especially the tourism sector and related service industries. Bhutan is also likely to be negatively affected by any extended economic downturn in its neighbors (especially India).
The UN in Bhutan moved quickly and pro-actively to respond to COVID-19. In particular, UN agencies developed a joint response framework aligned with global guidance. Bhutan’s “UN Framework for the Socio-Economic Response to COVID-19” (also known locally as the “Shield”) includes both short-term measures to mitigate negative social and economic consequences along with medium- to long-term investments to strengthen the re-build and resilience to future crises.
For more information, please download the sit-rep from UN Bhutan COVID-19 sitrep #2 – 26 June 2020.
World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with the Department of Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs conducted a food safety & quality management training for private traders, retailers, wholesalers and enterprises dealing in essential food items in Phuentsholing & Thimphu. The sessions were delivered through a hybrid learning model comprising of theory, online module as well as practical demonstrations.
Conducted in Phuentsholing from 23-24 June and in Thimphu from 25-26 June, the event saw collaboration among relevant government departments and agencies in the country including Department of Trade, Food Cooperation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) as well as industry experts from the private sector in India via Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) Food & Agriculture Centre of Excellence. WFP leveraged its global expertise in food aid, logistics and food safety & quality and delivered modules on the science behind safe storage of food commodities, storage structures and inventory management.
Giving every Bhutanese a chance to make their voices heard, and to share their hopes and fears for the future you want.
This year, the United Nations (UN) turns 75. Since 1945, the UN has transformed the lives of millions of people. But today, its mission to build a better world is more urgent and more difficult than ever. We face unprecedented challenges, from the Covid-19 pandemic to the climate emergency. We need to work together like never before – across borders, sectors and generations – to overcome these crises and ensure we recover better. To mark the UN Charter Day, UN Bhutan, launches the world’s largest conversation- to give every Bhutanese a chance to make their voices heard, and to share their hopes and fears for the future you want.
Take the survey, have YOUR say, and invite your networks, friends and colleagues to do the same!
Your responses to this survey will inform global priorities now and going forward.
Follow the link https://un75.online/ to take the survey.
Once you have taken the survey, please tag UN Bhutan on Facebook and Instagram.
Joint Press Release by MoAF, EU and ITC
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forest (MoAF) along with the European Union (EU) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) today unveiled a new online platform, Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), for Bhutanese agricultural producers. This online platform, developed with the financial support of the EU and technical expertise of ITC, will enhance the information flow related to the country’s agriculture products.
AMIS was officially launched today by His Excellency the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Mr. Yeshey Penjor, together with His Excellency the Honourable Ambassador of the European Union to India and Bhutan, Mr. Ugo Astuto, through a virtual platform.
Speaking at the launch, the Minister of Agriculture said: “AMIS will directly support Bhutan’s development objectives as set-out in the country’s 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP), as well as in the FYP for the Renewable Natural Resources Sector, to enhance the sector’s marketing and value chain development, increase its contribution to the national economy, and improve and sustain livelihoods.”
The tool will benefit small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and farmers in Bhutan, providing them with real-time price information for agricultural commodities, empowering them to get better prices and enhance their living standards.
The Ambassador of the European Union to India and Bhutan, Mr. Ugo Astuto, said: “AMIS is a powerful yet simple tool. It will connect farmers with market and buyers, thus supporting Bhutan’s efforts to boost domestic and international trade, while contributing to improved sustainability of rural incomes. Connecting the agricultural ecosystem across the country will not only ensure unified market information for agricultural products but also facilitate inclusive growth, in line with our overall support to Bhutan in the wake of the Covid crisis.”
Available on mobile devices, AMIS delivers market information right at the fingertips of Bhutanese producers in all Dzongkhags across the country, including the latest commodity and auction market prices from across the country. It is the first time such an online agriculture market price information system is made available to producers in Bhutan, which constitutes a unique and innovative leap forward for improved, inclusive and efficient agricultural market systems in the country.
“AMIS is a sustainable, powerful and inclusive solution in support of the agriculture sector in Bhutan” explains Mr. Ashish Shah, Director of Division of Country Programmes, International Trade Centre (ITC).
AMIS was developed with strong institutional anchorage and ownership, through consultations with Bhutanese public and private sector representatives. Following several rounds of pilot testing, AMIS brings a comprehensive and responsive software that is close to the needs of its end-users across the country and the agriculture value chain.
Hosted by the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC), the service is propelled by 29 fully coached and trained data collectors from the 20 Dzongkhags. Data is collected using tablets or smartphones weekly by the Agriculture Extension Officers based in Geogs in partnership between DAMC and the Department of Agriculture (DoA).
In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, AMIS has already been successfully put to use, as a strategic source of information for MoAF to monitor and manage the unprecedented hike in the prices of various food products which impacted consumers and food security.
AMIS is available on AndroidTM mobile devices through a dedicated smartphone app on the Google Play Store and to all other devices, at https://amis.gov.bt
AMIS was developed with the financial support from the European Union under the framework of EU-Bhutan Trade Support Project, which is being implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) (https://www.facebook.com/EUBhutan.Trade.Support/).
EU – Bhutan
During the 2014-2020 period, the overall EU support to Bhutan amounts to EUR 71.43 million, focusing on promoting sustainable development, local governance, rural development, supporting civil society organisations, trade as well as small and medium enterprises. As long term partners, the EU is also supporting Bhutan in its efforts to tackle Covid-19.
The EU has provided flexibility to the RGoB in the use of EUR 8.5 million released in March 2020 and is now working towards a subsequent release of EUR 9.7 in 2020 as advance payment which was due to be released in 2021. This has provided fiscal space for the RGoB to respond to COVID related activities.
United Nations announces funds to fight COVID-19 and “Build Back Better”
Thimphu, 15 June 2020: On behalf of the United Nations (UN) in Bhutan, the Resident Coordinator, Gerald Daly, during his meeting with Foreign Minister Lyonpo (Dr) Tandi Dorji, committed USD 1.17 million to support the Royal Government of Bhutan in addressing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A part of the commitment comes from the Secretary General’s UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, with the aim to support responses to COVID-19 and part of it is from the Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund, which will fund activities to accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs.
The UN Resident Coordinator said the funds will not only protect people from the spread of the virus but will also help to prevent harm to the most vulnerable over the longer-term and ensure that Bhutan can “Build Back Better”.
The programme financed by the Secretary General’s UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund supports education continuity and those whose livelihoods in the tourism and agriculture sectors are at risk. The Joint SDG Fund will support the Royal Government to create strategies to increase and make effective use of investments to manage the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, respond to climate change threats, and advance Bhutan’s ambitious sustainable development agenda.
The donor countries for the Secretary-General’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund are Switzerland, The Netherlands, Norway and Denmark who also contributed to the Joint SDG Fund.
“Lyonpo (Dr) Tandi Dorji thanked the UN in Bhutan for an additional commitment of US$ 1.17 million to the Royal Government to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected the world over. It is during times like these that the important role of the United Nations becomes more apparent and much needed. Only through the spirit of global partnership and cooperation, which defines the United Nations, will the world be able to overcome the challenges of COVID-19”.
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TshetenWangyal: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tshering Chuki, email@example.com
Despite the lush greenery that surrounds Ngarpongtang village in Thangrong, Bhutan, until recently, it was impossible to grow vegetables there. “I used to have to go to other villages to exchange pinewood for vegetables,” says Wangdi, a 54-year-old farmer. “We couldn’t get vegetables to grow here.”
Water was a scarce resource in this remote corner of the Himalayan nation. “I’ve only ever seen Ngarpongtang dry,” says village leader Lhuendup. “It never rains more than 41 days a year.” When it does rain, say villagers, it is erratic, and getting more so over the years.
A spring, more than 10 km away, is the nearest reliable source of water. Until mid-2019, one canal connected the spring to the community. Families trekked for 1.5 hours for extra water to the spring. There was barely enough water to drink for the 47 households that comprise the village, or for their livestock. There certainly wasn’t enough for irrigation of anything other than maize, the staple crop, even though the agro-climactic conditions are ripe for cultivation.
Cut to 2020, and farmers like Wangdi are now growing enough vegetables to feed their families and sell in local markets. “I have a 145 sq. yard kitchen garden now,” Wangdi says. What has changed?
The government’s Agriculture Research and Development Centre (ARDC) at Wengkhar recognized that the community’s lack of access to water left them dependent on the vagaries of the weather for even the most basic of needs. A participatory vulnerabilities assessment in six districts, conducted in partnership with the IFAD-supported Commercial Agriculture and Resilient Livelihoods Enhancement Programme (CARLEP), further highlighted that the water system was an important part of building climate resilience in communities like Ngarpongtang.
Between March and June 2019, ARDC and CARLEP projects worked together to design, construct and implement a system to harvest spring water, while community members pitched in with their labour. As a result, Ngarpongtang now boasts an underground water supply line that connects to a reservoir tank situated above the village, which further distributes water to each household’s storage tanks. The system is considered climate-resilient and the remote rural community is no longer dependant on rainfall to produce food.
Lhuendup, 42, feels that reliable water supply has given the area’s farmers a slew of new options. The new availability of water virtually on their doorsteps means they can maintain kitchen gardens in addition to rearing cattle, which would not have been possible before. “Today, we each have one water storage tank and sprinkler for irrigation. With the sprinkler, we can distribute water equally in our field and maintain our vegetable crops at the right temperature. I can think of sowing varieties of vegetables, which I couldn’t before,” he says.
Wangdi agrees. “I’ve just started getting enough water for my kitchen garden. I plan to gradually expand my cultivation area for vegetables, so I can sell more in the local market and supplement my income. Until now, I could only sell cheese, butter and eggs. It’s good to diversify,” he adds.
The agricultural extension officer for the area says this is the not only the first time farmers here have grown vegetables, but that many of them even have some left over. “Together they’ve managed a surplus of about 0.825 MT of vegetables, which is quite remarkable. They took the surplus to the local market to sell. Soon they’ll have a potato harvest as well,” Chungku says.
Many other villages in Bhutan face similar challenges of persistent water scarcity coupled with climate change-induced risks. More than half the population lives in rural areas and relies on agriculture for their livelihoods. Erratic rainfall, extreme weather, rising temperatures and the country’s mountainous topography leave some areas parched, while others see floods and landslides. The ARDC and CARLEP partnership was able to successfully identify and using appropriate technologies to address issues in Ngarpongtang. The next step is to replicate this success in other areas, so they may achieve sustainable water security – and tend kitchen gardens – too.
Original story on: https://www.ifad.org/en/web/latest/story/asset/41953467
“We must always be One nation with One vision in our convictions and efforts. When we hand over our country to our children, we should not only hand over a secure and sovereign country but an environmentally rich country.”- His Majesty the King.
Your Majesty Druk Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck, Hon’ble Secretary for the National Environment Commission, Dasho Sonam P. Wangdi, Executive Secretary for UN ESCAP, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Resident Representative of UNDP Bhutan, Azusa Kubota, colleagues.
Today, as we mark the World Environment Day, we also celebrate Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan, Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck’s birthday. Her Majesty is also the Royal Patron of the Environment and thank you also for your role as United Nations Environment Program Ozone Ambassador.
The theme for this year’s global campaign is called “Time For Nature.’ Its aim is to educate and engage audiences about the value that nature provides us and convey the urgency for global action towards the post-2020 biodiversity framework given the unprecedented rates of biodiversity loss.
It is a pleasure to see the National Environment Strategy 2020 being launched today with strong support from the UN family, including at the regional level UN ESCAP and UNEP and the UN Country Team-especially UNDP.
Today, I have three key messages:
Firstly this Environment Strategy is unique in many ways:
-It emphasizes means of implementation (partnerships, innovation, finance, etc.) that are also often overlooked in similar such documents. Given that the RGOB is now developing the country’s 21st century roadmap, this environment strategy establishes key challenges and solutions which will need to be taken into consideration by the 21st century roadmap
-It fully embraces the principles of sustainable development, in a way that is faithful to the Bhutanese approach to environment and development.
-It speaks to the 5-year plan and its 17 National Key result Areas, so is fully connected to the development plan of Bhutan, which is also unique in environmental policies, that tend to be quite separate.
Secondly I greatly appreciate the role that has been afforded to the CSO in implementation. I commend the NEC and the RGoB on working so practically with the CSO fraternity. In a number of environmental areas, such as waste Management the CSO’s deserve our deepest thanks. We know we can make greater progress in the environment when the CSO’s are playing their full partner role.
Thirdly, We have only climbed half the mountain: Although mindful that 5 different UN agencies, ESCAP, UNDP, UNEP, UNICEF and FAO contributed, it is in the implementation of the Strategy that the UN agencies really need to step up.
Dasho Sonam P. Wangdi, whenever you feel we are taking too long to deliver on our implementation commitments please give us a little nudge….while the UN may be here as guests of the Nation, we also know we have to deliver results so that we remain relevant and true partners both in terms of speech and action.
Allow me to also add that this strategy is important for the people of Bhutan and it deserves our best communication skills in spreading its important messages and knowledge. Our various UN offices will assist the NEC in spreading these important messages, as you deem appropriate.
Speaking in my personal capacity, I am grateful that this is the 3rd time I have had the opportunity to support the formulation/roll-out of this strategy…I sense the way your constitution speaks to the environment…’that every Bhutanese is a truesee…that it is to benefit not just present but also future generations’ challenges me at a personal level to do what I can to support such a noble constitution.
As the world struggles through this COVID-19 battle, as always, I am deeply moved by how Bhutan has once again come together in solidarity. His Majesty the King’s leadership inspires and encourages every Bhutanese to come together, in solidarity, as one nation to combat COVID-19. I wish to commend the Royal Government of Bhutan in tirelessly focusing on both the immediate responses to this pandemic and also the longer-term recovery measures. The RGoB’s decision to continue working on the ‘21st Century Economic roadmap’ personifies Leadership in Action.
The UN in Bhutan is responding to the immediate needs of the people; the needs of the most vulnerable while strengthening economic resilience and building longer-term human capital in a comprehensive way so that we find new ways to ‘Build Back Better’.
Allow me to end by quoting the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres
“In planning the coronavirus pandemic recovery, there is “a profound opportunity” to steer the world on “a path that tackles climate change, protects the environment, reverses biodiversity loss and ensures the long-term health and security of humankind.”