Dear Friends,According to the Nepalese media the tragic death of many trekking tourists in the Annupurna region last October could have been prevented, if they and their local guides had been informed about the extraordinarily bad weather conditions which had been forecasted. But "What actually functions properly in our country?" some journalists wrote, who have assessed the situation in the state of Himalaya as catastrophic.
Tourism is not the only source of income for the country. Nearly every family has one member who works in the Emirates or even the Cayman Islands, where the richest people of the planet live in the infamous tax paradises and do not seem to care much about exploiting the cheapest labour forces in the world. Simultaneously, in Nepal a new dimension of consumers is growing. The millions of Euros that are coming from Europe with the aim to reform the health and education systems are invested in the improvement of streets and bridges; Kathmandu has become one big construction site.
Further vast amounts of money are invested in new luxury resorts, even though the ten existing 5-star hotels have only been booked to half of their capacity during the peak season. One could be pleased about certain developments within the country, for example about the fact that the middle-class can now feed themselves properly; however, the food is so poisoned with chemicals and hormones, that many end up having to use their money on one of the many small, new - but nevertheless dirty - hospitals. Doctors are just as interested in a share of the new wealth. These "Newly-Rich" completely ignore the hardship of the poorest, who cannot afford food or medical aid. In contrast, the poverty of the ones in need is more visible to the observer than it ever was.
The 43 slum areas of Kathmandu have joined together, in order to challenge the plans of the government that anticipate eradicating all slums of the city eventually. We continue our work in the slums of Thapatali and Banshigat as the Maute closed down its camp in order to settle in the warmer South for the winter. Currently we are putting our priority on introducing better hygiene conditions. In the slum of Thapathali seven terribly dirty pit latrines on the banks of the Bagmati River are available for the 1500 inhabitants. We want to replace these tiny derelict huts with hygienic toilets. Since it is not allowed to construct any solid buildings we had planned to build the walls of the toilets out of plastic and bamboo poles. In order to keep a minimum of hygiene we would have had to make the foundations out of cement and the permission for this was not given to us by the government.
At the entrance of the slums there is now a small, well built house in which police keep watch in shifts in case the inhabitants of the slums should decide to rebel. We handle them in a friendly way and if we organise a cleaning campaign of the terrain they help quite spontaneously. There was no way that we wanted to admit defeat to this official refusal: that's why we searched in high grass and found an earlier cemented area near a well, where we have installed shower cubicles with the help of plastic and bamboo. At last the people can wash themselves properly. The children up to the age of 15 still receive our nutritious milk pudding and three times a week we have thousands of litres of drinking water delivered to the large containers which we have constructed for this purpose in the slum. As in Banshigat we have also started up a health post in Thapathali, which we were forced to do under a plastic tent. MUNA examines the children regularly and does her best to prevent illnesses. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are distributed regularly and also this year we have provided winter jackets in the hope of sheltering the children from the bitter cold of the winter under plastic awnings.
Also in Banshigat the needy children receive food and help. SUSHMA alphabetised 30 Maute children and teaches them how they should wash and "behave" themselves. These children, whose parents want to settle down, are namely unbelievably funny, cheeky and wild! They are showered three times a week and this time we have bought underpants for them. Never before in their lives had they worn such a piece of clothing because their parents had no money for them and they regarded them as unnecessary. 15 Maute children started school officially last April and every day on their way to their lessons they call by at the kindergarten for a "cleanliness check".
Since the electricity in Nepal is constantly disconnected for several hours without notice we have installed a small solar energy plant on the roof of the kindergarten and now the children can learn all day. Previously, SUSHMA had to adapt her teaching plan to the hours when there was electricity. Despite our help reading in the slums is still very difficult. Many of the men like the most to spend their time playing cards and drinking schnapps. It is often the women who have to do the hardest work on the building sites in order to give her family rice in the evenings, and this although she only gets paid half the wages for this work that the men would earn. Many girls already get married at the age of 13, so then the families have one less mouth to feed. In accordance with tradition they then live with their parents-in-law and are exploited and made to work although at this age they should really go to school. In Nepal there are laws which should protect against the discrimination of women and castes but they are simply ignored.
It is still a long way before all these people can lead a worthy life. There are countless small foreign organisations like ours which do the most effective work for them. Large organisations, like for example UNICEF, certainly fulfil their function, but even if they have expensive cars and well paid staff they don't really approach the roots of the problems as small committed organisations do: we almost always work and live together with the affected people so that they learn to take over responsibility for themselves and to actually understand why the many changes, to which we encourage them, are desperately necessary. Time and again they return to their old habits and time and again we have to find the strength to convince them that only through their cooperation a better life for their children would be possible.
Once again thank you to all of you for your essential financial support for this commitment. We wish you a happy Christmas and a good and healthy New Year 2015!