Even though the sun can bring it to 20 degrees in wintery Nepal during the day, temperatures drop to zero at around 5 pm. However, houses and huts have no heating and people spend the nights nestled together to warm themselves. Politically, nothing happens. The elections to be held in November have been postponed until April 2008. Communists and Maoists want to declare Nepal a republic before the elections. The other parties refuse. So it's only been debating and stepping on the spot for months now. Meanwhile, tons of waste are once again accumulating in the capital's streets. Gasoline and diesel are rationed so that miles of queues of taxis and other cars form, whose drivers often lose their nerves, and violent fights take place. The many poor are getting poorer, the few rich are getting richer, and one wonders where the hundreds of millions of dollars made available by the international community in Nepal are disappearing. A new fashion of kidnappings has sprung up: Children will be taken by unknown Groups are hijacked indiscriminately, and ransom is demanded of families who have nothing at all. Then the children will be killed in cold blood.
There are 100 different ethnic groups and castes in Nepal who speak 70 different languages and have lived together in peace until recently. The ethnic unrest of the long-established Madhesis in southern Nepal is now worsening because their demands are hardly registered by the government. Since 17 of the country's 29 million inhabitants are forced to do so in the open air, groundwater is polluted and the rivers of the Kathmandu valley serve as a garbage dump: 82% of all illnesses are due to these unhygienic circumstances. Health insurance is a foreign word in Nepal: Whoever becomes seriously ill dies because he/she has no money to pay for medical treatment.
The people of our "slum" have the children's aid Nepal, which covers the medical costs for more than 200 children. Thanks to the vitamin and mineral-rich food they receive every day, and thanks to the four years of work carried out by Sija and her helpers, only a few children fall ill. This November, we bought 200 anoraks for 400 euros to protect the children from the winter cold. The mothers also help now and make sure that no one drinks contaminated water. Almost a year ago, we connected the clean water pipeline to the city's management. But the authorities are still refusing to let clean water flow into the slums - even for a fee. For Sija, a daily fight she has not won yet. International aid organisations are currently being criticised and denounced by the government. In theory, we should have been asking the Ministry of Social Affairs for approval for every small or large project for a year now, just like the big organisations such as Plan International or UNICEF. Small organizations can go their own way fairly easily, but large organisations can go their own way, who build schools, health centres and other visible projects, get in trouble from an outrageous government that should be doing this vital work for the good of their country itself!
We are pleased to note that in "our" slum, people's lives have become easier and better through our efforts. The communal alleys are clean, the wash place, toilets and showers are used, and solidarity between women remains. The Women's Defense Committee is on the road every night, and beaten women have become a rarity. It turned out that cardiac juma would have 95% chance of surviving through heart valve surgery and not the other way round. A donor from Nuremberg was willing to pay the costs, but on the day before the operation Juma refused to have the operation performed. She looks worse every day and has a little kid. We are not putting any pressure on them, because if something should happen during the intervention, we would be the culprits in the eyes of the slum dwellers. Since cooperation with the Community is going really well, we certainly do not want to take this risk.
In Children's World there is good news that the swelling of Nelson's lymph nodes has disappeared and the cancer alarm was completely unfounded. Kusum's mother came from her faraway village on the Tibetan border, dressed in her only dress and wearing plastic sandals. The 42-year-old woman lives alone with her beloved 14 year old cow and some other animals she is very worried about. A large knot in her left chest and pain in her arm brought her to Kathmandu. The examinations revealed cancer and an amputation of the breast followed. From a financial point of view, the operation (120 euros) is a trifle. For the next eight months of chemo- and radiotherapy we have to pay about 5000 Euro. Actually, we are a pure children's charity, but should we let this woman die because of it? Kusum has been educated for 19 years by Kinderhilfe Nepal. She is the only brilliant student with Deepak and will begin her Master's degree in Business and Finance in January at Webster University, Thailand. Because of her skilful character, she's bound to get it to the doctor. She now wants to go to her village to educate the women and teach them the preventive self-examination method, so that they don't wait six months like their mother to see a doctor. Who will pay for the expensive therapies is another question, but perhaps early detection can save them expensive chemotherapy.
In Children's World, where there are now almost only young people, everyone is doing fine. We celebrated the wedding in a surprising and joyful way. Smita, 19, was orphaned by the SOS Children's Village near Kathmandu for 12 years. After her graduation, she stood on the street without any identity. She is an extremely nice and intelligent girl who was lucky to meet us on her way. By all means we tried to get her an ID card. In vain, because the Nepalese state refuses to grant citizenship to its own children, who are parentless. Only ONE possibility remained: to marry her to a man. Only then would she be recognized as a Nepalese woman! Our fully paralyzed "Prince", Raj Kumar, was blessed to be able to help someone himself. Now Sija studies physiotherapy in Bangalore, India, and sends him regular text messages. However, we must also tell you that our prince himself was only able to obtain citizenship a year ago because Deepak's mother adopted him, even though he is not related to her at all and even belongs to a completely different caste. (Deepak is now studying psychology in Thailand). So we are a somewhat "muddly" family, but one thing is certain: We hold fast to each other!
All these positive stories can only come from your support. A drop in the ocean, they say. Certainly. But the many people in the slum and in Children's World experience this benefit every day and appreciate it. Many thanks in her name for your help. We sincerely wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2008!