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Features

The Coronavirus Diaries: 'Vaccine Nationalism is Our Deadliest Enemy'

Wednesday August 18

Joel Hafvenstein of the United Mission to Nepal reports on a time of national and personal upheaval


Since the last time I wrote, coronavirus rates have fallen in Nepal.  Our Delta-variant wave that began in April had subsided by July, though not back to the low levels of the winter. UMN’s two hospitals in the rural hill country still have a steady flow of COVID-19 patients, but not enough to overflow our available beds or oxygen plant capacity.  Most parts of Nepal could tell a similar story.

We expect that this is only a lull before another big wave, however.  As we look to the experience of other countries around the world, it is hard to believe that Nepal would have reached the combination of recovered and vaccinated people to bring lasting immunity.  As I write, only around 12% of Nepal’s population is fully vaccinated, thanks to donations of vaccines from India, China, Bhutan, Japan, and America.

Vaccination is our only hope for preventing a long succession of devastating waves—and vaccine nationalism is our deadliest enemy, as I testified at the Church of Scotland General Assembly earlier this year.  If rich countries around the world continue to prioritise booster doses and vaccines for their lowest-risk citizens over sharing vaccines with lower-income countries, we will see more devastating waves in Asia and Africa—and potentially new and deadlier variants emerging to threaten the whole world.

We urgently need countries with an oversupply of vaccines to increase their vaccine donations to countries like Nepal, and to do so at large scale.  The UK has finally in the past couple of weeks taken the first steps to do so, sending a few million doses abroad.  As British citizens we must continue to press our government to do more, not only out of compassion, but from the recognition that as long as other countries remain a spawning ground for new variants, none of us is safe.

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to bring new disruptions to the work of the United Mission to Nepal—including a very personal disruption.  My family and I have been told that we will need to leave the country by the first week of September.  COVID-related delays to our government agreements, work visa process, and the passport renewal of one of our sons have combined to exhaust our valid visa days for 2021. 

While we can and will work remotely from abroad, the time zone difference will be a major challenge for me joining office meetings and for my sons joining online classes at their school in Kathmandu.  The next few months will be a crucial handover time as my successor, UMN’s first Nepali executive director, takes the helm.  We will now have to carry out much of that handover at long distance, before I have the chance to return in January to wrap up our time with UMN.

We’re grateful for prayer for Nepal, for UMN, and for our family in this time of continuing uncertainty and upheaval.


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The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Malawi: A Crisis That Will Not Go Away
Kenya: Covid is Real
Belgium: Some Silver Linings
South Africa: Will We Keep Listening?
Zimbabwe: Untold Sufferings
A Deep and Inconsolable Loss: Tribute to Phumzile Mabizela
Malawi: This Was Very Real
Sri Lanka: Daily Numbers are Shocking
Jerusalem: Virtual Prisoners
Bangladesh: We Will Survive by the Grace of God
Nepal: Exhausting and Often Heartbreaking
Malawi: God Has Been Faithful to Us
France: Thankful For What I Have
India: Love Your Neighbours
A Nigerian in Scotland: Alone But Not Lonely
Taiwan: When We Work Together, We Achieve the Best Results
Hungary: We Mourn Each Loss
Zambia: Preparing for the Vaccine, and a Third Wave
World Communion of Reformed Churches: The 'Covid and Beyond' Church
Pakistan: Passing the Light
Lebanon: The Lord Will Not Forsake Us
South Korea: 'It is Time For Christians to Hear the Marginalised'
Cuba: Keep Moving On
Canada: Cracks Have Been Exposed
Kenya: Leave No Child Behind
USA: Homes of Prayer
Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'