“Give me $100 please…”. The boy’s request was nothing if not insistent. Disappointed that I was not a tourist and more than a little surprised that I spoke to him in Nepali, he settled for having his photo taken. A typical encounter in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, which has more than its fair share of would be ‘tour guides’, chancers and street kids looking for a little extra money. I know nothing of the boy beyond that he told me his name, but it does perhaps provide a reminder that poverty and Nepal frequently go hand in hand.
Without resorting to a whole list of statistics, a couple of pieces of information provide a stark reminder of the current situation for many of the population in post conflict Nepal. Fifty-four percent of Nepal’s population lives on less than US$1.25 per day, and three and a half million people are considered moderately to severely food insecure, counting Nepal among the poorest countries in South Asia. The 2009 Human Development Index ranks Nepal at 144 out of 182 countries. Hunger and malnutrition have emerged as a ‘silent crisis’ in Nepal. Three and a half million people in Nepal today are considered moderately to severely food-insecure. Ongoing political deadlock and instability combined with frequent droughts and floods and sustained high food price inflation have compounded endemic factors, leading to increased vulnerability to food insecurity in the country. With the inflation rate at 18% as of May 2010, food prices have surpassed those at the height of the 2008 international food crisis, placing those already vulnerable to food insecurity at an even greater risk. Follow these links if you want more information:-
At the micro level, I turned up at Navadeep Jyoti Kendra last week to discover that they were packing up the office because there is no further funding available, so the scheme effectively ends in less than a week! (It’s not a complete surprise, but still….). I’m not entirely sure what this means for me yet, and there’s a meeting scheduled with VSO to discuss a possible way forward. The Positive Prevention Programme will continue to be run by Sakriya Plus Nepal, with the Navadeep Outreach Educators moving across there, and I would like, at least pro-tem to continue working with the board and any remaining staff to at the very least try and secure some additional funding. So…watch this space.
Footnote. A slightly surreal experience earlier in the week, whilst walking in to work. The road was lined with armed police all the way to the office. Turns out that the Nepali President, Dr Ram Baran Yadav was inaugurating a Youth Solidarity Festival at Kathmandu University (Dhulikhel) near to the office. Plenty of shots of armed police waiting for the convoy, which shot by in a flash…and frankly one black four wheel drive vehicle is pretty much like another. There’s a very dangerous cow in this shot, but here’s a more routine photo of the Nepali armed police in action.