Listen up! Podcast time

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My new podcast, Nepal Now, is up and running. Please take a listen (above), on the website or in your podcast player.

Season 1 includes episodes on the key role that communities play in responding to Nepal’s emergencies, labour migration, an interview with director Deepak Rauniyar, women in the age of Covid-19 and an Indigenous perspective on tackling climate change.

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Dalit lives matter — but to who?

A screenshot of a clip from the Nepal Now podcast episode about Dalit rights in Nepal.

Anyone who lives in Nepal knows about caste and untouchability — the social rules that slot people into rigid groups from which they can rarely escape. At the bottom of the caste hierarchy are the Dalits, previously known as untouchables.

Anyone living in Nepal would also be aware of the deadly, violent crimes committed against Dalits, almost always with no legal consequences. But as you will hear in the introduction to this episode of Nepal Now, the incident reports from the Nepal Monitor provide a sense of the daily indignities and violence that Dalit people face in this country.

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Remittance earnings boost villages — usually

A village in Achham district, Far-western Nepal, 2017.
A village in Achham district, Far-western Nepal, 2017.

The remittances that migrant labourers send back to their countries contribute massively to those economies, but the impact on poverty reduction is much more complex, as a new book by Ramesh Sunam details

This article was published in Nepali Times on 15 September 2020.

As you might expect, the remittance village is punctuated by smooth, concrete houses rising among their weary-looking brick, mud and bamboo neighbours, a settlement where shiny motorcycles whine back and forth.

 But in the remittance village you will also find residents who cannot even afford the price of a flight ticket to join the growing queue of fellow villagers trooping overseas to earn. It is also a place where going to work abroad actually drives some households into poverty instead of lifting them out of it. 

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Values matter when tackling climate change — Tunga Rai

As of late last year Nepal started to receive money from something called the Green Climate Fund to both reduce its own emissions and adapt to climate change. So far $73 million has been earmarked from the Fund for two projects. But who decides how that money is spent?

The latest episode of the Nepal Now podcast spoke with Tunga Rai, National Coordinator of the Climate Change Partnership Programm at the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN). He thinks that climate change projects need to do a better job of incorporating the Indigenous perspective and should be based on values as well as scientific knowledge.

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Premature births, stillbirths rise in Nepal during pandemic — Lancet

A pregnant woman undergoes a checkup at Baitadi District Hospital in June 2020 © Ganesh Shahi/ UNFPA.

This article was published in Nepali Times online, 14 August 2020.

A report published online in the journal The Lancet Global Health this week revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused 50% fewer women in Nepal than usual to give birth in hospitals, resulting in higher risks for premature births, stillborn deliveries and newborn deaths.

The study, conducted in nine hospitals across Nepal found that the stillbirth rate at hospitals and birthing centres increased from 14 per 1,000 before the lockdown to 21, and the neonatal mortality increased from 13 per 1,000 livebirths to 40.

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“I’m not an entertainer” — Rauniyar

A screenshot of an audio clip of filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar on a recent episode of Nepal Now podcast.

Filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar says his role is to examine the society he grew up in (south-eastern Nepal), not to make movies that entertain. That said, the director recently told the Nepal Now podcast that his upcoming film he will try to deliver his social commentary wrapped up in the genre of a police thriller.

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Nepal’s labour migration trap

Malaysia-bound migrant workers at a Kathmandu-based facility, where their passports and fingerprints are scanned for Immigration and Security Clearance. ©Nepali Times

Experiences from other Asian countries show that people who have gone abroad to work can be reintegrated into the economies of their home countries but it’s a complex process that requires government leadership.

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Fears for maternal health rise in Nepal with coronavirus

A woman sits with her baby outside her shop in the city of Bhaktapur near Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, in June 2014. The government says fewer women are giving birth in health facilities during the coronavirus pandemic. (Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS)

Researching this article for The New Humanitarian it became clearer than ever that the status of maternal health in Nepal is cloudy at the best of times since accurate data is unavailable. In the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s really a guess: everyone assumes it’s getting worse but no one is sure. The local office of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) was supposed to start an assessment with the Government of Nepal late in June but it has yet to begin. Read on:

As home births rise in Nepal, so do fears for maternal health

Home births are rising in Nepal as fewer pregnant women visit hospitals, fuelling fears that the coronavirus pandemic could reverse years of progress on maternal health in the South Asian nation.

The government says less than half of pregnancies are now taking place in health facilities, compared with about 70 percent before coronavirus lockdowns began in March. A separate survey of health facilities across Nepal, conducted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in April, found that visits by pregnant women had dropped as much as 50 percent.

In June, Nirmala Joshi, 24, walked two hours to her nearest hospital in Baitadi, a mountainous district in Nepal’s remote far west, for her first prenatal check-up.

Read the full article.

Does Nepal deserve 2nd term at UN Human Rights Council?

A general view during the 23th Session of the Human Rights Council. 27 May 2013. Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré

Here’s a comprehensive article by Nepali Times. Nepal has been a member of the UN Human Rights Council since 2018 and is now running for a second term; the vote will likely take place at the General Assembly in October. However, many people in the human rights community argue that Nepal shouldn’t be re-elected because of its poor record, both in respecting human rights in Nepal itself and in its work as a council member. This is one issue to follow:

Nepal is running for re-election at the UN Human Rights Council, but has not done enough to protect rights

On 20 June 2019 Kumar Poudel was found dead, reportedly shot in the head, in Lalbandi-1, Chandranagar Forest in Sarlahi district, in what Nepal Police said was a shootout. He was in charge of the Netra Bikram Chand (‘Biplab’)-led Communist Party of Nepal in Sarlahi, and a probe by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) called it an extrajudicial killing, recommending criminal charges against three police officers.

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Don’t mourn the death of internationalism — look harder

A shorter version of this article was published in the Nepali Times, but this one includes the role of the media, a point I had to cut from the published version because it was too long. Please let me know if you agree.

© Diwakar Chettri

COVID-19 is laying waste to international cooperation as well as health systems. Countries have retreated into themselves, barring makers of medical equipment from exporting goods and in some cases hijacking shipments en route to other countries. The Trump administration has exited the World Health Organization (WHO) and is leading an attack on the organisation’s credibility. Internationalism is on its deathbed.  

Or is it?

It’s a conclusion you can easily draw from media reports, which thrive on drama and conflict. “During this global pandemic there’s been precious little sign of intergovernmental collaboration and collective leadership. Instead the worldwide response has been characterized by national self-interest, mutual suspicion and recrimination,” intoned Stephen Sackur, host of BBC’s HardTalk, while interviewing former UK Foreign Minister David Miliband recently.

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