Like in many years before, in Nepal this year's onset of winter came almost overnight. Temperatures of about 26 degrees Celsius around noontime dropped to 6 to 0 degrees Celsius within 2 hours after sunset. Nepalese barracks and houses often do not provide any central heating and therefore residents are often chilled to the bone. But even Nepalese, who could afford a central heating, when they are asked why they do not install one will reply: "winter only lasts for 4 months, and then summer comes back!"
Things have not changed a lot in Nepal: there are 22 parties in the current government, who so far fought against each other but now, cooperate against the Maoists. But still, the government cannot make any lasting decision without the former rebellions. The United Nations Security Council warns about an upcoming civil war, although this is seen as an un-requested interference across all political parties. It seems as just to prove its existence, the government was hosting a 10 days meeting along the 5500 meters high Mount Everest's submontane. Next to the media, who was following this exclusive event, doctors carried out medical examinations to report about the impact of height on average unfit human bodies. The Nepalese government aims to get global attention on the environmental damage and loss in the Himalaya region. In the meantime, the Nepalese people remain in grinding poverty. While traditions are forming the cohesion in mountainous regions, the overcrowded Kathmandu valley is determined by violence and death threats. As the number of victims of road accidents but also murder keeps rising, insurance companies lowered the indemnity for the unnatural loss of an adult from 15.000 Euros to 5.000, the loss of a child to 2.000 Euros and loosing an eye, a leg or an arm is compensated with 2.500 Euros.
Despite very hard conditions, Kinderhilfe Nepal keeps working in Bongshigat's slums. The Women's Slum committee are in authority of the area, while most of the men are spending their time with hanging around and boozing. Bina, president of the committee, is a volunteer in a women's organization supporting women in Nepalese slums. Together with her we visited the Pathivara slum, which we have been supporting for the last 5 years. We were very happy to see that the school, built up with the support of our organization, is still running successfully although teachers are working without any salary but are forced by the committee to keep up with teaching. This is unquestionable indefensible, but referring to the committee, will only change if the school becomes state-approved and is therefore granted a subsidy. But due to fact that next to the Pathivara slum, a wealthy neighbourhood with comfortable houses was built it is much more possible that the slum is being destroyed by the government. Visiting the slums meant also meeting old friends that we have been supporting for years. Nevertheless the joyful reunion was also characterized by the desperate asking for continuing the support and money by the slum inhabitants. They even would vote the current government out of office.
Seeing the emaciated children's bodies made us think about restarting giving out vitamins and minerals in Pathivara. Although we are still paying school fees for 45 of the older children in Pathivara we are mainly focusing on the support and help in the Bonshighat slum. Giving out food might help fighting the hunger in that moment, but an efficient and lasting help it is necessary to focus our energies on one area. This time 300 children had a medical examination and were provided with medical treatment. As it was winter and most of the children did not have anything to wear, we also bought 300 winter jackets, which will keep them warm day and night.
Usually the slum's women are giving birth to their children all on their own and under unsanitary circumstances. Most of them have never had a gynaecological examination. It took us a week to make this finally happen, as it is quite common for a Nepalese doctor to work without any instruments. Therefore we had to organize 6 speculums, a steriliser and every other necessary medical instrument. In Nepal a gynaecological examination is usually done on a common desk and not on a special chair. As we found out these special chairs are available in Kathmandu we were about to buy some and give them away as a present to the medical doctor to be able to use them in the future as well. The doctor, Mrs Dr Rajni, was about to reject the chairs as "in the last hundreds of years we never needed such chairs". Furthermore only by paying a higher salary (100 Euros per day) Mrs Rajni was convinced to examine every woman at length and not just the ones who were in pain. For instance, smear tests as a check-up for cancer are quite uncommon in Nepal as it is usually only subject to wealthier patients.
The patients were highly exited but also bashful about their examination. Every male coming close to the location was send away immediately. 198 women were signed in for the examination but only 154 had the courage to turn up. Often, Bina had to call out for the patients many times before they finally showed up. Due to the experiences with earlier examinations or giving out food or clothing, we knew how important it could be to use a megaphone to be able to be heart in such a noisy surrounding. The examination was followed by a consultancy focusing on birth control, which was held by Bina. It came out that about a third of the women were pregnant and only 6 were healthy. 15 were sent into hospital for further treatment and 133 needed medical treatments in some way; especially uterine problems are widespread.
A quarter of these women belong to the nomadic people Maute and therefore moving around in tents. Due to very cold winters some of them settle down in the slums of Bongshigat. Their children often support their families by bagging during the days. One of them is Jitendra (picture), whose mother spent her pregnancy camping in front of a chemical factory in India and thereby caused Jitendra's disability. It is quite common that children are assuming responsibility for their family instead of their parents. We would like to convince the parents to take responsibility for taking care of their family and children and thereby enable education for their children instead. To alphabetize those children it is necessary to talk with the parents and to start the long process of convincing them, which referring to earlier experience, can take a while.
After the medical check-up we bought medical treatment for the women and their children for about 500 Euros respectively 1100 Euros. Meena, who is in charge of the project, started to organize further treatment in hospitals for children in need. Sija, Angela from the former Children's World, Djaynti and Sangita started working in the local kindergarten, which takes care of about 40 children. Thus, their mothers finally do have the time to earn money by working on local construction sites. Due to fact that about 60 percent of the male inhabitants of the slums refuse to work, it is essential for women to have a place to take care of their children to be able to earn money and thereby take care of their family.
Although it can be very hard to keep up the engagement in Kathmandu, it is a joyful and pleasure giving work. With your support we can give hope to the Bongshigat people and guide them to a more independent and self-determined life.
In the name of the people, we could help during this year, we would like to thank every one, who made our engagement possible and would like to wish you all the best for 2010,