Covid-19 lockdown stretching small-scale relief efforts in Nepal

Covid_fundraising_Workers at KAVACH who usually produce motorcycle clothing prepare PPEs ©KAVACH

Women wearing personal protective equipment make PPEs for front-line workers in Nepal at KAVACH, a maker of motorcycle gear that has completely refocused its production line to help make up the shortage of medical equipment during the pandemic. ©KAVACH

This article was published on nepalitimes.com on 24 April as Helping the helpless during lockdown. It features six organisations that are providing food and other essential items, mainly to the poorest of the poor. I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, more groups in Nepal also contributing in this way. It is a bright spot in a gloomy situation as the country is far from prepared for a major outbreak of the Coronavirus.


Raj Kumar Mahato launched the Covid-19 relief campaign of BHORE with Rs200,000 from his own pocket but doesn’t know where the NGO will find money to continue providing essential items for the ultra-poor, Nita Raut has spent all but Rs4,500 of the Rs78,000 she raised and says she will donate her own salary if necessary to provide food to Kathmandu’s poorest and Sano Paila, an NGO, is dipping into its savings to continue relief work in the eastern Terai.

Budgets of small organisations providing relief to needy people in Nepal are being squeezed dry as the lockdown continues but all of them say they are determined to keep working.

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Locals in Nepal take direct action

NTimes_photo_local_activism_Marty_Logan

Police use a water cannon to push back protesters on the streets of Kathmandu. Photo: Nepali Times

The jury is still out on federalism in Nepal, which was put in place in 2017, after elections to three levels of government – local, provincial and federal. But there is no doubting that local people are getting more vocal about their frustrations at the slow pace of road building and other infrastructure works. I wrote the following in this week’s Nepali Times:

Think locally, act locally

  • In May, residents and traders burned tyres to block the Chabahil-Jorpati road, signalling their frustration at long-delayed construction on the dusty, crater-filled stretch. They succeeded in sparking action, but after upgrading work stalled, protests erupted again last week in a bid to force the contractor to finish the job.
  • The road blocking trend morphed into poster protests, where the faces of delinquent road contractors were plastered to poles and vehicles. This included Nagarkot, where contractor Sharada Prasad Adhikari, also the landlord of Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was targeted. The tactic spread further, with Mayor Bhim Parajuli of Biratnagar being publicly shamed last week.
  • Residents attempting to stop road-building in Baitadi in October were turned on by an excavator operator, whose shocking attack with the machine injured eight people. Attempted murder charges are pending.
  • In Udaypur last week, locals clashed with police after seizing more than a dozen dump trucks and an excavator that were being used to gouge sand and rocks out of a local river.
  • Residents of Charikot of Dolakha District took to the streets last week to protest the lack of progress in repairing the Jiri Highway. They blocked the main intersection to vehicular traffic for hours.

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The view from here: the bright side of Nepal

Bayalpata_Hospital_community_health_worker_patient_(c)_Marty_LoganLiving in Kathmandu it’s way too easy to be critical of this country, which often means critical of the government and the ‘establishment’. Red tape, corruption, injustice and neglect are just some of the terms that can easily be used to describe those who wield power in this place.

Of course, this is just part of the picture: because those are exactly the issues that the media focuses on (writes the former and still sometimes journalist) they tend to be emphasised. But I know that there are positive things happening here, from the macro view of issues like declining maternal mortality and improving child health, to the growth of micro-enterprises in Kathmandu run by young Nepalis who have chosen to return home from studying overseas.

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Interview with Nepal’s health minister

Gagan ThapaMy interview with Nepal’s health minister, Gagan Thapa, is in this week’s Nepali Times. Video is also available on that page.

Thapa was a rising star when I last lived here and has become Nepal’s youngest cabinet minister. Continue reading