At the beginning of the year, the former Maoist rebel leader Pushpa Kama Dahal, also known as "Pushpa Kama Dahal" - "the militant"- became the Prime Minister of Nepal for the third time since 2008. The new government forms a coalition of eight small parties, which is a very unstable structure from the beginning, because it completely excludes the second largest party in the country, the Congress Party. At least in international politics, Dahal will definitely be smart enough to negotiate reasonably with the two difficult neighbouring great powers, China and India, while maintaining proximity with the US.
The Corona pandemic, as well as the war of aggression on Ukraine, have crippled Nepal's development efforts, and food price hikes caused by global inflation are weighing down the lives of more and more Nepalese. Many can only survive by sending money earned by family members through hard labour abroad. Although progress has been made in some areas in the country, Nepal is still one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the ten countries most affected by climate change worldwide: Giant floods and earth avalanches destroy entire villages and newly built roads every year. One third of children under five suffer from developmental disorders due to malnutrition, and medical care remains out of reach for the poor because of the high costs.
This situation increasingly leads us to provide the unaffordable surgeries and cancer treatments for the children from the slums. There are now 72 official slums in Kathmandu, which declared war on former rapper and now mayor of Kathmandu Balendra Shah last January.
A few months ago, he had announced the eviction of the Thapathali slum, but no one wanted to believe in this threat. In January, however, a bulldozer and several police units showed up in Thapathali early in the morning and people were asked to empty their shacks within an hour so that they could then be flattened. This gave the people the time they needed to call the other slums for help, and an hour later, thousands of people started attacking the policemen with stones, and the entrance to the slum was blocked with burning truck tyres. Fighting continued throughout the day and there were so many casualties on both sides that the government intervened to stop the battle.
Meanwhile, the mayor, Baiendrah Shah, is extremely frustrated because now it is not he but the responsible ministry that will decide what to do with the slums. He wants to destroy not only the Thapathali slum, but all 72 slums in the capital. The problem is that not only very poor people live in the slums. Many families, like in the slum of Banshighat. where we have been working for so long, have
And it is not only the inhabitants of the 72 official slums who are a thorn in Balendra Shah's side: in Kathmandu, hundreds of Madhesi clans from the south are camping out under old plastic tarpaulins in the hope of being able to feed themselves better in the capital. The mayor strictly banned camping in the city a month ago. Therefore, small settlements of tin huts are now growing on empty plots of land, which must provide at least one toilet and ground water and are rented to the poor.
The new Madhesi community, whose children we have been caring for since six months, is urgently looking for such a dwelling, which is also affordable. Their children also benefit from our porridge, and our staff members Muna and Sushma have enrolled the older ones in school and are taking care of their health.
The Madhesi clan, which we have been supporting for many years, our "Maute people", as they like to call themselves, can be glad that we got them out of the rubbish dump in time and have already accommodated them in tin huts with well toilets and classrooms. We provide them all with drinking water, and their children also get our milk porridge enriched with minerals and vitamins every day.
Our staff members Muna and Sushma tutor the older children every morning at six o clock before they go to school and then alphabetise the little ones. The children can no longer imagine living in the rubbish again and are learning very hard. With the mothers, on the other hand, we have our difficulties: For months we have been trying to convince them to work in order to feed their families. Only one woman, Rashmi, has already completed a sewing course, and we are currently paying for her second advanced course. She is mending the clothes of the whole clan with the sewing machine we provided to the women.
One of our donors wanted to invest money in training for these women, but they were rejected everywhere because they cannot write or do maths. We suggested that they sell vegetables or clothes on the street like many other Nepali women. At first, everyone was on fire and we were in the process of organizing this sale when the women told us the very next day that they did not want to work after all: They had to take care of their babies, they said, they had to cook, wash, and the people of Kathmandu would refuse to buy goods from them anyway, because they are considered dirty and are discriminated against anyway because of their dark skin colour.
When we replied disappointedly that they were just lazy, they were very ashamed. We told them that from now on we would only assist the children and would never again provide them, the adults, with basic food as we did for months during the Covid period. They would give birth to children without end, without wondering whether they could feed them, instead of taking responsibility for them. Very many Nepalese, including women, carry stones on building pieces all day for € 5 a day just to get their children through, but our "Maute" women and their husbands seem to be too good for that.
It was once again the "great" mayor Balendra Shah who solved this problem by suddenly banning the sale of goods on the street! This means that not even the Madhesi husbands can bring home some money by selling their home-brewed remedies because their goods are confiscated by the police, and they have to pay fines on top of that.
Meanwhile, Kathmandu looks as grey and polluted as any other major Asian city due to endless traffic jams. The typical hustle and bustle of the thousands of people in colourful clothes that used to enliven the image of the capital is now missing. These people are hit very hard by this measure: By no longer being allowed to sell snacks, fruits, vegetables and other goods on the street, they can no longer earn the daily food for their family.
The indomitable mayor of Kathmandu has at least succeeded in one thing: He has largely cleared the city of rubbish, and those who dare to throw their rubbish on the street have to pay fines. Unfortunately, it seems that Balendra Shah is not able to differentiate between removing rubbish and removing people. He has a very specific idea of how he wants his city to look, and he doesn't care at all that the many residents affected by his decisions have to suffer. We do what we have always done for 34 years: We adapt and continue our efforts as unobtrusively as possible, undeterred.