The role of local government in tackling a global pandemic: A lesson from Nepal


  • Anil Sigdel
  • Ustav Kharel
  • Thatcher Ng’ong’a



Nepal, COVID-19, local leadership, WHO


This paper critically analyses the scope of leadership in Nepal at the local government level when tackling the wider impacts of COVID-19, with a particular focus on health service delivery in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) frameworks. In-depth interviews with 66 representatives from local governments (LG) in the Madhesh and Sudurpaschim provinces were conducted, along with analysis of routine data from health management information systems. We found that Maternal Child Health (MCH) services at local health institutions were largely unimpacted, stocks of essential medicine were available, and the LGs exhibited determination and capability in getting to grips with the crisis, despite inadequate knowledge and resources. Nevertheless, there was sizeable shrinkage in the utilisation of services, which triggered public health concerns of a different nature, the LGs were inadequately prepared in regards to the capacity and availability of human resources, and there were explicit gaps in terms of coordination among all three tiers of government and a lack of role clarity that delayed the response to the pandemic at the local level.  Our recommendations include continued investment in local MCH services, capacity building for local leaders with a focus on human resource management in emergency contexts, and the simplification of public procurement processes, particularly during crises, enabling LGs and other local actors to expediate procurement and improve response times.


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Author Biographies

  • Anil Sigdel

    Anil is the Social Inclusion Research Manager at Save the Children International. His previous role was as the Senior MEAL and Strategy Manager at World Vision International Nepal, where he led on research, monitoring, monitoring and strategy functions. He has more than a decade of experience in humanitarian and development settings, mostly in the field of research, monitoring and evaluation.

  • Ustav Kharel

    Ustav is the Nepal Innovation Lab Lead at World Vision International Nepal. He ideates, creates prototypes and tests innovative solutions to address crises using a human-centric approach. 

  • Thatcher Ng’ong’a

    Thatcher is the Program Capability Director at World Vision and previously worked as the Development and Quality Director at World Vision International Nepal. During her time in Nepal, she led different units (MEALS, grant acquisition, technical teams and innovation lab) and was primarily responsible for ensuring the quality of programs.  


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How to Cite

“The role of local government in tackling a global pandemic: A lesson from Nepal” (2023) The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working paper 038, August, 2023. doi:10.21153/thl2023art1844.