It has been a good 60 years since Nepal began its development planning, but unfortunately the various governments have not yet succeeded in making efficient use of the country's human and economic resources: Underdeveloped institutions and corruption have stood (and still stand) in the way, and foreign aid has rarely been used as it should have been. The Nepalese justify this fact with a single sentence: "All Nepalese politicians are corrupt", and therefore nobody is interested in politics. The fact that the current Prime Minister OLI, who is seriously ill right now spends most of his time in an expensive foreign hospital, which does not exactly promote citizens' trust in the numerous clinics and hospitals in Kathmandu. They too often report that the wrong leg or kidney has been removed in the past.
Also, the weak Nepalese health system is unable to react to epidemics: This year Nepal was hit by the Denge fever, and containment of disease can only be done during the colder seasons. The inhabitants of our slums, who live right on the banks of the contaminated Bagmati River, were particularly hard hit by the virus. Against this, "our" toll people, who also camped near the airport close to the river, were not sick at all, as if they were immune to the pathogen of the gnats. "The word "toll" has been used for centuries to refer to those who look after elephants and who in ancient times, with the help of the pachyderms, traveled through the country to sell their goods. Today "our" tolls have only a plastic tent and a few cooking pans. The women themselves build the stove with clay where they store it. The men earn money by selling homemade medicinal plant essences on the street or by skillfully removing the earwax of passers-by for a few rupees.
The street sale, which was recently banned by the state, is flourishing like never before, and the police seem particularly happy to seize the medicine and utensils of the toll men. For 100 € they should get their source of income back, but none of them ever had such a sum of money in their pockets, so at the moment the women have to go begging with their babies to feed the family. As recently as 20-30 years ago, Madhesis were desperately poor man living alone, selling vegetables in Kathmandu with the help of an old bicycle and then sending the money to his family in southern Nepal. They still do, but many others have moved to the capital since the Maoist revolution to try their luck, and they are not well-liked because of their darker skin. Especially the tolls are discriminated against; recently a bulldozer came into the camp early in the morning, which we take care of, and destroyed the toilet in three minutes we had prepared for them. This event gave us at least the joy of realizing that the toilet was missing from "our friends" and that they no longer take it for granted at all to take care of their needs anywhere in their camp. They are looking for a solution to this problem and naturally have hopes for our help.
Our tent school has become the main meeting point of the settlement, and despite all the adversity, a sense of hygiene is slowly developing among these people. Although they are chased away everywhere, they remain cheerful and friendly. From our "model slum" of Banshiqat, where we have been working for the longest time, the tolls that had settled there for years were finally expelled from the community. The other ethnic groups and castes of the settlement have always called them thieves, and they used the fact that some time ago the police came to search the slum in search of a thief to banish them. Those who had done nothing illegal then left voluntarily because they could no longer bear the constant rejection of the other 2,100 slum dwellers. It is amazing to see how much the toll children are missing in our kindergarten there. They have naturally awakened children and had a positive, motivating influence on the passivity of the other children.
Since the 1000 people from the slum of Thapathali are not allowed to build permanent dwellings, they continue to live under plastic huts. The government now plans to register the families in four groups according to their needs. They are to say there whether they still own land in their villages and how much they earn. It is clear that the people from the settlement are preparing for interrogation, and no one will mention that they own a small piece of land or even a mud house in a distant province. And if that were the case, then, of course, the house will have been destroyed by an earthquake or an avalanche. The government only wants to financially support the needy people who have nothing at all.
But if you consider that each earthquake victim family has received the ridiculous sum of 2,500€ from the state to build an earthquake-proof house, the inhabitants of Thapathali all want to declare themselves completely destitute, and firmly intend to stay in their tent huts on the banks of the Bagmati River. In the summer they plant vegetables, men and women work hard and survive with the money their family members send them from the Gulf States. They do not complain. They are satisfied with rice and a few lentils. Their biggest problem remains the supply of drinking water. The Kathmandu valley needed 220 million liters of drinking water to supply the population. But the city can only supply 100 million liters as of now. This water goes mainly to the hotels and the wealthy households of Kathmandu city. Every house in the capital has a large black cistern on the roof, which stores the purchased water. The groundwater, which is drawn out of the ground with the help of pumps, is completely contaminated and is used by the people from the slums for washing and bathing. This causes diseases and allergies, but nobody cares. However, the people of Thapathali are extremely grateful for the drinking water that we have brought to them three times a week by a truck.
The inhabitants of Mudhku village, which is an hour away from Kathmandu, do not have this problem because there is enough fresh water and we have helped them to lay a pipeline between the spring which is 2 km away and the village, which has fundamentally changed their lives for the better. The fact that we were only able to build an earthquake-proof house for 20 families in 2015 was very depressing at the time. Today, however, Mudhku has been rebuilt: Even though the 60 families who did not get a house at that time had to pay off the loan they had to take from the bank for years, they now live in houses built according to the model of the Children's Aid Nepal Bungalows. Five years ago the people from Mudhku looked needy and unkempt. Today they have a toilet with shower facilities, and they ensure that their children no longer walk around in rags, but cleanly and discreetly. This time we provided the children with satchels and lunch boxes. It is not much, but it remains an important help for the families and encourages them to send their children to school as long as possible, even if they have to work off their debts to build their house.
Here, as in the slums of Kathmandu, most parents can neither read nor write and they are proud that their children will belong to the first generation in which they will have a better future as alphabetized people. In the slums, we also pay the school fees for more than 200 children, and while we ensure good growth for the little ones with our enriched milk porridge, we support the older ones who have a real interest in education or study. Unfortunately, in Nepal, the business of education is flourishing like never before, and the state, which should invest in the education of its children, ensures that only the wealthy parents or those who receive money from abroad can pay the far too high school fees.
Children's Aid Nepal continues to do its best in its work in Kathmandu, thanks to your faithful support and despite all the difficulties.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year 2020!