Navigating COVID-19: an update from Nepal

16 November 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic has shifted the way we all work, live, and navigate the world. It has also highlighted and widened global inequalities, particularly the delivery of and access to healthcare services and education. As part of this series, we share updates from IFD Project Partners in Tajikistan, Nepal, Tanzania, and Mexico, among others, to look at how they have navigated these challenges.

This month’s update is from the Society of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists of Nepal (SODVELON), awarded a DermLink grant in 2019 to provide topical steroid misuse training for community pharmacists, often the first point of contact for medical assistance.

As part of this, they developed posters, leaflets and flyers warning about topical steroids misuse to accompany their training programme, which outlined:

  • Types of topical steroids
  • How and why they are misused
  • Impact on health and wellbeing across all ages
  • Diagnosis, prescription and application
  • Challenging attitudes and misinformation
  • Empowering patients

In February 2020, led by Dr Shristi Shrestha, SODVELON trained 100 pharmacists. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Nepali government postponed all face to face activities to tackle and reduce the pandemic. The Society of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists of Nepal (SODVELON) team joined the national effort and, as a result, had to suspend all non-essential activities.

Dr Shristi Shrestha and her team

During this period, Dr Shrestha and her team adapted the training programme to make it accessible and easy to understand, particularly as many attendees did not have good internet connections. Through this, attendees from rural and remote areas were able to join, and in total, 80 pharmacists took part in the online training course. They also aligned their activities with World Skin Health Day and underscored their commitment to improving skin health in Nepal. This training will improve skin health as the number of misdiagnoses and misuse will reduce, and the resources developed will enable the participants to raise awareness for years to come.

Overall, the barriers created by COVID-19 have been challenging. Our partners have not only adapted but in many instanced have thrived or reached a broader and more diverse audience. For Dr Shristi Shrestha and her team, online workshops enabled them to train more female pharmacists and those from rural areas, than was originally planned.