Hundreds of Nepalese Covid-19 victims have been buried along its border with India in mass graves, some allegedly in no man's land, as Nepal's healthcare system collapses under a devastating second wave of the virus.
Burials of 300 bodies have been conducted in the Nepalese district of Rautahat, which borders the Indian state of Bihar, since the onset of the pandemic, according to Indra Dev Yadav, the Chief District Officer for Rautahat.
"As per Covid-19 protocol, the bodies are buried in Ward Three. The Nepal Army has managed [the] burial of 300 bodies," Yadav said.
The devastating second wave of Covid-19 that first engulfed neighbouring India has now spread to Nepal via its shared, porous land border.
As in India, the families of many of the deceased are too afraid to collect the bodies of loved ones for fear of contracting the virus or cannot afford cremation.
The Nepalese Army has been instructed to bury the unclaimed bodies of 4682 people since its outbreak began in January 2020, with 456 over the past week alone.
Nepal is now reporting more cases per million than India. As in Delhi and Mumbai, hundreds of Kathmandu's residents are dying helplessly in their homes and outside hospitals while they wait for admission.
Villagers allege that between May 7 and May 10, at least three Covid-19 victims who died in the Gaur District Hospital in Nepal's border district of Rautahat were buried in no man's land on the banks of the Lalbakeya River.
"Three bodies were buried in the no man's land in the presence of the Nepalese Army," said a resident of the town of Bairgania, on condition of anonymity.
The Lalbakeya River flows into tributaries for the Ganges River, where dozens of floating bodies – believed to be the corpses of Covid-19 victims – have been discovered since Sunday.
Residents of the Banjaraha village confirmed to the Telegraph three bodies were buried on the riverside and said it was "very likely" others had also been buried in the locality.
"The forest region of the India-Nepal border that passes through Rautahat is notoriously famous for disposing of bodies from both sides," added a villager from the Sonbarsa district, on the Indian side of the border, on condition of anonymity.
The Nepalese Army refuted these claims when contacted by the Telegraph and said they had been buried on the "right side of the border".
Nepal is one of Asia's poorest countries and its healthcare system was threadbare before the pandemic, with fewer than 600 ventilators and about 18,000 doctors for its population of 29 million.
"Over the last week the situation has become extremely desperate and many hospitals are sending patients away and telling them to source their own oxygen," said Dr Biraj Karmacharya, an epidemiologist and director of public Health and community programmes at Dhulikhel Hospital, around 29km from Kathmandu.
"Until now, around 14 hospitals have closed and the remaining hospitals are also struggling, we also have a major lack of ICUs for severe cases."
Five Covid-19 patients died this week in a hospital in Rupandehi in southern Nepal after their ICU ran out of oxygen. Shortages have become so severe that mountaineers have been asked to return the oxygen cylinders they use while scaling Everest so they can be refilled for Covid-19 patients.
On Wednesday (Thursday NZT), Nepal reported more than 9000 new daily infections – a twentyfold increase since mid-April – but this is thought to be a fraction of the true numbers.
There is just one testing facility in the city of Birgunj, which is home to more than 200,000 people, while health workers on the border are not being supplied with testing kits, according to Kanchan Jha, a Nepalese health activist.
Nepal has also been plunged into an untimely political crisis.
On Monday, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli lost a crucial vote of confidence after his moderate Communist party split from Maoist rebels in March.
"Political energy that is supposed to be spent on the management of the pandemic is instead being spent by the ruling party and opposition to ensure either Mr Oli is in or out of power," Jha said.
With politicians somewhat distracted, the crisis in Nepal has not received the same international attention as that of India. The first batch of 20,000 oxygen cylinders and 100 ventilators pledged by China only arrived on Tuesday.
"Nepal is in urgent need of oxygen, plain and simple. Without it, the situation will quickly spiral out of control and the consequences will be catastrophic," said Jennifer Syed, country director of Save the Children in Nepal.