Impact of Covid-19 in the Bhutanese/Nepalese Community in Cincinnati

Tara Dahal, BA

Greater Cincinnati is home to around 20,000 Nepali speaking population which consists of both Nepalese and Bhutanese people. The availability of jobs in this area and the temperate climate has resulted in many Bhutanese and Nepali people moving to Cincinnati from different parts of the country. 

The US has resettled around 100,000 Bhutanese refugees since 2008 in different states. 50 % of this population has now received US citizenship.  Ohio has become the center of the Bhutanese diaspora in recent years with large numbers of Bhutanese relocating to Columbus, Cleveland, Akron and Dayton. The Bhutanese people favor living together among members of their own community as they share the same religious, social and cultural norms and values.  Many of them live with their extended families. They eat a Nepali/Indian diet of rice, lentils and vegetables. 

Since 2015, many in the Bhutanese community have fallen victim to cardiac arrest in large numbers. At least 10 people die due to cardiac arrest every year. In addition, COVID-19 has not spared this population. We now have more than 50 families in greater Cincinnati who have tested positive for coronavirus.  Most of the bread winners of these families work in manufacturing companies which requires them to go to work in warehouses.  It has been found that they catch the virus from their workplace and infect their whole extended family which includes the elderly and more vulnerable family members.  There are currently no reported deaths due to COVID-19 but complications due to the disease vary from fatigue, body pain, chest pain, etc. Recently, an elderly patient who tested positive a month ago subsequently died due to cardiac arrest.  In another case, a 55-year-old man who was recently admitted to University of Cincinnati Hospital with a stroke was found to be negative for COVID-19.

We have recently formed a volunteer group named BRAVE (Bhutanese Response Assistance Volunteer Effort) to help the Bhutanese and Nepalese community in Ohio during this pandemic. We collect donations of food and money and distribute them to COVID-19 affected families who are under quarantine. Volunteer coordinators, drivers, Nepali speaking nurses and doctors have all joined forces to help with this effort.  Please consider helping us in this relied effort for our Bhutanese and Nepalese brothers and sisters.

Tara Dahal was born in Bhutan.  In 1990, at the age of 15, he left Bhutan for Nepal and lived in a refugee camp for 22 years.  In 2012, he was resettled in Denver, CO. He moved to Cincinnati in 2014 and worked in a warehouse as a picker and processor for 2 years.  He subsequently joined Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio as a case worker in the Refugee Resettlement Program. He currently works in Human Resources at Healthy Home Care LLC. He actively volunteers in the Bhutanese community of Cincinnati as a coordinator at the Nepali Language and Art Center to teach the Nepali language to children.