Some time ago one activist friend in Nepal made the point that foreigners are now focusing so much on remote mountain areas and almost nothing is being done regarding the victims around Kathmandu. The friend said that in the city itself and its suburbs, and in such places which can be easily reached by bus, there are still a lot of areas where people have not yet even received a first-aid.
And this is true. A good example is the Telkot village in the Bhaktapur district, which is only two hours away from the center of Kathmandu. The sum total of the humanitarian aid in Telkot is a few awnings (which Telkot's activists obtained after many appeals to government) and 10 shelters (from the NGO Project 'Udaya Aawas') which is almost nothing for an area which has more than 150 families who are beyond poor. The 150 families who still haven't got any help are single women with children, old people, invalids, and lower casts who, out of lack of education, cannot get decent jobs.
We went to the Telkot area to investigate how, since being devastated by the earthquake, these people are now living. On the first day we visited 10 families from the 60 poorest people of the area. To these such people, some time ago, we independently distributed tents and food with the money we collected from friends around the world.
In the Himalayas, houses spread out over quite large distances, so we regularly have to go down and climb back up all the time. Our progress was therefore very slow and in a day we could only reach 10 houses. But we were able to observe a fair sample of houses, by which you can assess the overall situation around the village Telkot.
2. Sita Bholn is similar to a lot of other women of Telkot area and works in an agricultural farm 8 hours per day for a $2 salary. There are 5 family members in Sita’s home, which was built from the remains of a ruined house. The family has no shower or toilet.
3. This house, in the rice swamps, Maili Jamkatel lives with her son, daughter and two grandchildren. They live in these shelters, erected from the remains of a destroyed house. The problem in such a shelter is that there is no protection from the frogs, snakes and mosquitoes which regularly come inside. Another big problem of these shelters are the leeches during the rainy season. Leeches are everywhere during the monsoon in the Himalayas; however they do not enter into homes with mud floors.
4. Dhana Kumari is 73 years old. She used to live here with her older sister before the earthquake. Now, both women have been forced to live temporarily with their relatives on the other side of a mountain. Dhana Khumari often comes here by foot, but there is no hope of her returning to her home area.
5. Sorita Jamkel doesn’t remember how old is she. She has health issues; she cannot hear well, is partially blind, and is largely unable to walk. Her husband is 75 years old. He married Sorita when he was older because he could not pay the ransom for another wife, and the fee for Sorita wasn't much. Sorita and her husband have three children. Their family is one of the 10 houses who received shelter from the NGO Project Udaya Aawas. However, the problems were not over. Neither Sorita or her husband can work. They have no hope for a new winter home.
6. Maili Thing is 79 years old. All of her life she has worked as a dishwasher in Bhaktapur. Now retired she looks after her grandchildren. Maili's husband died 19 years ago. After the earthquake Maili was forced to move into the family of her son. She says that her son does not care about her or the family. They live in a shelter built from leftovers from their destroyed house and have no toilet or shower.
7-8-9. Kanchi Viko, Santali Bishakama and Ram Piari, despite their advanced age, are working for $2 a day in the fields. Their houses were completely destroyed during the earthquake. The women are now temporarily living with their relatives as they do not have any other support. They live with no toilet or shower.
10. A few families from the lower castes live in this shelter. Because of their position, they can not apply for any job except working the farmers' fields for $2 a day. The children go to a free government school. The iron sheets, of which their shelter is made, are rented in installments; a month later the families not only have to give the rent, but return the materials themselves. So in a month they will have to disassemble the shelters. They have no toilet or shower. 14 people are living in this shelter.
There are more than 150 families like this in the Telkot area and are generally the lower castes, single women, and the disabled. We continue to raise funds for the construction of toilets and temporary winter shelters for these people. The construction project will begin in September, when the monsoon ends.
Larisa Matteyssen, Kathmandu, Nepal
Photos by Bogdan Sh.
English edition by James Ward