The few foreigners who visited Kathmandu six weeks after the earthquake were very surprised and asked themselves whether an earthquake had really taken place here. On television they had ONLY shown destruction and one could have believed that half of the capital city had been destroyed. Of course most of the temples and some buildings had been damaged or even broken down, but only in the old town or on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Under the ca. 10,000 people who died because of the catastrophe, "only" 1,500 people died in the capital city, but as soon as one leaves the town then one realizes the scale of the damage for the farmers who were already in need anyway.
Most of the dwellings which were made of clay and stones have been completely demolished. Tourism is the country's main source of income. The one-sided television reports at the time of the earthquake are responsible for the many people who live from tourism no longer having any income because nobody dares to travel to Nepal any more. The truth is that "only" three of the 35 trekking routes in the Himalayas are no longer usable, and "only" 11 of the 75 districts were affected by the catastrophe. However slave traders profit from the desperate situation of people wandering about, lost children and women, in order to sell them abroad. The rainy season also brought further disasters: the monsoon softens the earth which is already shaken up by the earthquake and causes landslides which swallow up whole villages.
The Nepalese government, which was incompetent of immediately helping its countrymen, did everything possible to make the operation of international helpers more difficult: Aid teams had to wait for permission for several days in order to reach the regions which were hardest hit. The media began to spread xenophobic sentiments, in which they spread negative news about relief operations: That under the 6,500 tons of rice, which the world nourishment program of the United Nations distributed to the victims of the earthquake, 102 sacks were rotten and uneddable, made headlines in the papers for weeks. Four weeks after the disaster the government forbid the transfer of money from foreigners to private accounts of Nepalese friends. They wanted to be able to manage and control the foreign currency themselves. Even we were harshly told three times by men from different political channels that we should give the government our money and fly home! The resentment against the white employees of the large aid organizations who work in Nepal and receive very high wages for Nepalese circumstances is increasing constantly because the educated Nepalese think that THEY should have these jobs and not foreigners.
Earlier only the Indian people were discriminated because they control a large part of the trade in Nepal. Now, we the white people are no longer welcomed by many of the wealthy people. On the other hand the needy remain well disposed towards us because they are exceptionally thankful to receive any help at all from anybody.
Nothing has happened to these people, who we have been supporting in the slums for a long time, since they only live under plastic awnings. However, during the two months after the catastrophe we had to provide them with rice, lentils and beans because suddenly they could no longer earn the money for the daily food for the family on building sites or as household helps. Now the normal daily life has begun again in Kathmandu and our work in the slums of Banshigat and Thapathali continues just like before the earthquake. The Maute nomads who were about to spend the summer in Nepal preferred to go to India this year.
Our call for donations after the catastrophe brought the organization 80,000 € and thanks to your generosity we were able to protect the 80 homeless families from the village of Mudhku with sturdy provisional dwellings out of bamboo and tarpaulin just in time before the heavy monsoon. This work was successfully organized and supervised by Muna's brother within six weeks and cost us 34,000 €. The school in Mudhku which cares for 500 children from the whole region was also destroyed. Over 5000 schools in the country were completely destroyed by the earthquake. So that the children could continue their lessons we have built a school out of thick galvanized corrugated iron sheets which cost 16,000 €. The facility will provide good service for longer than 10 years until the government will perhaps at some time concern themselves with the question of how to use the 4.4 billion dollars which have been donated by the international community sensibly for rebuilding Nepal. Now we would like to help all these people who have lost everything to get permanent earthquake safe housing and we are in contact with a Nepalese architect.
Our plan seems at the moment not to be very realistic because the building materials in Nepal are almost as expensive as in Germany. In order to build a simple but safe house which is in keeping with the Nepalese tradition we would need at least 6000 €. That means 480,000 € for the 80 houses. It is a lot of money …. At the moment we have the money for 10 houses and as soon as possible we will start building for the 10 poorest families until we find more money for the others. The victims of the earthquake do not expect anything from their government and also have no expectations of us. They are only thankful to be able to live in the dry and they do not ask themselves how things could continue for them. Their only worry is to survive from one day to the next. It is fact that the 4.4 billion dollars in aid should with priority be used to rebuild the infrastructure of the country and the old temples.
The countries providing aid have seriously indicated that these enormous amounts should be used in a transparent way so that this financial support does not fail due to the corrupt customs of the officials. And despite everything the poor do not expect anything because they know through experience that aid money disappears somewhere on the way before it reaches those who need it the most. This is also the reason why aid organizations prefer to support them most possibly directly and on the spot. In order to keep a clear view over our commitment we would like to concentrate on our slums and the village of Mudhku. The village consists of small groups of houses which stretch out over many kilometers in the mountains. Since the quake shaked the layers of earth so strongly all the sources of water in Mudhku have also run dry but the villagers do not complain since they have since birth been used to walking many kilometers to fetch water they say.
Mudhku consists of about 200 families. Half of them belong to the highest recognized cast in Hinduism, the Brahmins, the other half belong to the lowest cast the "untouchables" who work as tailors, but are never allowed to enter the house of a Brahmins. Brahmins would never use the plate or glass of an untouchable. The difference between the two casts has been made clear by the earthquake: the better built houses of the Brahmins are still standing whilst the untouchables have lost everything. Santosh and Muna are also "untouchable", and when Muna came to us in Kathmandu twenty years ago we had to change her name to hide her origin. At that time untouchables in Kathmandu were solely responsible for cleaning toilets; a job which only they were allowed to do. Today they are no longer allowed to be discriminated by law. However the division of casts in society remains even more alive than ever before.
Many thanks to all of you for your valuable support! We will send you your donation receipts in December. And if you should have any ideas how we could accomplish rebuilding Mudhku please contact us!