Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

CIOB Community

Lockdown in Nepal

4 June 2020

Tobias Vokuhl, formerly of Beard construction, describes his life in Nepal under lockdown.

Former contracts manager with Beard Construction and active member of CIOB Oxford Hub Tobias Vokuhl took a sabbatical where he and his young family moved to Nepal to project manage various construction projects.

Tobias is now working in a voluntary capacity supporting INF, a local NGO, in disaster response and resilience building, as well as acting as a CIOB representative with a view to supplying input into the CIOB South Asia Strategy development later in the year. He has posted a regular blog about his experiences. Here is an extract from the most recent post in early April:

“These are indeed unusual times, wherever one is in this world. Recorded numbers of covid-19 positive individuals in Nepal are very low at five, but only 1,000 tests have been done to date in a country of 30 million, so it is hard to know what the real picture is. The health system certainly is not equipped at all for a wave of intensive care-requiring patients, so it is better to keep people apart as best as possible.

“Several other expat families have left Nepal prematurely within the last three weeks due to the pandemic, which has been emotional for the children, as good friends have suddenly departed.

“If you are a Nepali on daily labour wages and live ‘hand to mouth’, the current lockdown circumstances are certainly more than a distraction.”

Tobias Vokuhl, INF

“We are expecting to see the current situation through from here in Pokhara, and a good group of other expats have remained and are supporting each other, and critically, are supporting any INF medical response if required.  INF medical facilities are already actively preparing for eventualities, and INF’s medical and disaster response staff are supporting the local government covid-19 response team in their planning efforts.

“I am working from home now, and we are also putting a mixed daily programme of activities together for our kids to keep the days interesting. In that respect we share the fate of many other families around the world.

“If you are a Nepali on daily labour wages and live ‘hand to mouth’, the current lockdown is certainly more than just a distraction; it can literally mean hunger for you and for your family.

“It is great to see that local government and Pokhara churches have started to collect money in support of vulnerable families in the area and are getting support systems in place. More, however, needs to be done as time goes on and funds will start running low for many more low-income families.

“For us, knowing of such bigger existential challenges, sharply puts our minor inconveniences in perspective.”

Connect with Tobias and read more blog posts at LinkedIn

Main image: Pokhara residents exit houses for shopping only