A donor's comment
Back in 2019, following a grant application to a major Foundation in the UK, the Foundation's Chairman commented that we should be seeking to collaborate more with other charities as he had recently received a similar application from another small charity working in Nepal. It seemed to him that all chasing the same pound and that there surely had to be scope for synergy and avoidance of duplication of effort. He was, of course, quite right and I pointed out to him that we were already doing that in respect of some of our project activities.
This need for networking and collaboration came even more sharply into focus with the impact of COVID on our fundraising activities and the dramatic drop in income that all charities have experienced. This has been somewhat of a "double whammy" where, although income has dropped because of COVID, the need for expenditure in Nepal has increased. This is because of reductions in foreign aid (including from the UK government), major charities cutting back and the requirement to provide additional relief support because of climate change and COVID.
The challenge from the Delta Variant
As I have previously reported, Nepal has been devastated by the COVID Delta variant that crossed the open border so readily from India, often brought back by returning Nepalese migrant workers who had lost their jobs. In fact, there has been a particularly infectious mutation of the variant - AY.1 or "Delta Plus" - that has been spreading very rapidly, including into Europe as a so-called "Nepal variant". The Nepal authorities responded to the surge in cases with another strict national lockdown.
Pipal Tree joined forces with two other UK registered charities to take up the challenge of providing relief to our operational area, this being the eight Districts of Province 2 in southeast Nepal. These charities are our operational partner, Our Sansar, and a new funding partner, Guy's Trust. The challenge was daunting not only because of the distances involved (during a lockdown!). For unlike this time last year, the Nepal authorities - nationally, provincially and locally - were making no provision for food relief. And even if they had, many people would not have qualified for relief because of being landless or lacking citizenship. We had to get to these people to relieve hunger, save lives and provide hope for the future.
Our joint fundraising appeals, underpinned by matching pledges made through The Big Give, have allowed our three charities to raise a grand total of £42,000 to send to Nepal. It turned out that this was more or less what our implementing partners in Nepal, the NGO's Mithila Wildlife Trust and Our Sansar' eponymous NGO, estimated as being their requirement to address the genuine need in the Province.
Summary of relief provided
The relief work is nearing an end now. Not because COVID has gone away - far from it - but because the arrival of the monsoon has brought with it the opportunity for people to earn some money through rice planting and other agricultural activities. The relief has consisted of delivering a package to a household containing the following:
- Rice: 20 kg
- Lentils: 5 kg
- Wheat Flour: 5kg
- Salt: 1 Kg
- Oil: 2 Ltr.
- Soybean: 0.5Kg
- Soap: 4 pcs.
- Washing Bar: 2 Pcs.
Here is a summary of what has been achieved so far by way of food relief in the eight Districts of Province 2 (as at today, 23rd June):
|District||Households supported||Households awaiting support||Total|
This equates to 14,860 men, women and children, many helped by more than one visit. A further £428 has been spent on PPE and other items for health care and social workers.
Here is an idea of the human impact on an individual basis:
Case study 1 - Mr Dip Narayan Mahato
Mr Mahato had been running a small village shop that had to close because of the lockdown. This left his family (a wife and two daughters) with no income. Mithila Wildlife Trust had supported the family during lockdown a year ago when a home visit revealed that they were living only on potatoes, too proud to ask for help from neighbours. This year, the team called with him during lockdown to see how he was getting along to find the family once again in a terrible state. They cried for 15 minutes leaving the field staff lost for words. A delivery of food has been enough to tide the family over until "business as usual" can resume.
Case study 2 - Mr Kanhaiya Karori
Mr Karori belongs to an "untouchable" community that is known as Karori in Nepal and Nat in India. These people earn a living by collecting wild honey and from selling organic dyes. They are peripatetic, erecting temporary shelters wherever they go and remaining in a village until business dries up. Since the Karori have no fixed abodes, they don't qualify for citizenship - a study from 2015 found that only two Karori in the whole of Nepal had citizenship certificates. And, without citizenships, they don't qualify for any government services or support.
At lockdown, Kanhaiya' hand-to-mouth existence left his family in a precarious position. They had nothing in store and he and his wife and two children resorted to begging. But the local people were scared of catching COVID and gave them nothing, hoping that they would move away. Eventually, he received one week's worth of support from the local Ward President, who asked if Mithila Wildlife Trust could take over the support. Which they did, through us, saving this vulnerable family from starvation and from coming to any harm.
Case study 3 - Mrs Sanechari Mahara
Mrs Sanechari Mahara lives on public land with her four sons and three daughters. Her husband had been a migrant worker in the Punjab but he lost his work during lockdown and had to return home. Without an income, the whole family had to resort to begging. Their plight came to the attention of the Mithila Wildlife Trust community support teacher who made a home visit. We responded by providing food according to their needs and arranged for four of the seven children, who were school-age, to attend our community learning centre for non-formal education. Food support to the family has continued during lockdown and hopefully the children now have an entry point to the formal education process.
Case study 4 - A street family
A family of four - two adults and two small children - has been living on the streets of Janakpur. They stay in a tarpaulin temporary shelter, have no land or documents to verify their identities. They had been earning their income from collecting and re-selling plastic bottles from drains and dumps. This all ended with lockdown and, intimidated by the police who were enforcing the restrictions of movement, they had to remain by their shelter and starve.
A joint Mithila Wildlife Trust/Our Sansar team met with them and arranged for a food consignment to be delivered. They left their contact details with nearby families to ensure that they would be advised if the couple needed further help after the first food consignment ran out.
Case study 5 - A man in chains
The relief team was profoundly shaken during a routine visit to a village to find a 50-year old man chained to a post inside a mud hut. He was totally naked and he had been kept like that for five years, the floor his toilet. This is how people with mental health problems can be treated in rural areas. Bizarrely, he had a wife and child but they had been incapable of managing his condition The team had him released immediately and he has since been cared for at a local ashram, receiving medication and physiotherapy to help him walk again. We have also managed to find him a wheelchair.
Note: We are not publishing images as they are just too harrowing to share.
Our relief work has been praised widely by social workers and local politicians, all too aware that no other food relief provision was made by the Nepal authorities or by any other relief organisation. This at a time when in one of our communities around 50% of households had COVID positive cases and were forbidden to visit stores. The central Nepal government's Social Welfare Council has asked to meet with me and Julia Krepska, the Founder of Our Sansar, when we next visit Nepal to discuss future collaborations.