What would be the worst things you could imagine happening in the wake of a major natural disaster?
Waiting in line for 30 hours to get 2 litres (or 0 litres) of gas? Having to burn broken furniture to cook your meals? Electricity black-outs for 12 hours each day? Medicines and blood becoming scarce at clinics and hospitals? Almost no available public transportation?
Everything described above is happening in Nepal now, has been for the last 3 months, and Nepal is in a crisis that is deepening week by week.
And no, it is not due to the earthquakes: this is all due to politics.
Controversial Constitution and Border Blockades
Little landlocked Nepal relies solely on its two giant and only neighbours for imports: China to the north and India to the south. The earthquakes wreaked havoc on trade routes across the Himalaya to China, creating more reliance on Indian imports.
In September, Nepal signed their first democratically-created constitution (they used to be a monarchy). To simplify something complicated, some Nepali people in the south feel marginalized by the new laws of the land and are protesting the constitution by blockading the border with India.
Whether it's southerners blocking imports OR India preventing exports it's hard to tell. Either way, the result is that the flow of goods, medicines and fuel has slowed to a trickle into Nepal.
The import of various fuels into Nepal has been severely restricted and scarcity is the result.
For a while, there were reserves of propane for cooking, kerosene for cooking and light, gas for motorcycles and cars, diesel for buses and aviation fuel for planes. Residents of the country would line up, unhappily but patiently, for fuel of all kinds: Rajan (our manufacturer) spent 30 hours on line to obtain 5L of fuel for his motorbike last month. Transportation within the country has become more and more restricted: public transportation has been decreasing to disappearing, and infrequent buses are transporting people inside, out and on top just to try get people to their destinations.
Now that fuel reserves have dwindled, there is a new sense of urgency setting in. The government has started bringing large chunks of wood into the city from outlying jungle areas and selling it for fuel. Rajan's family has been burning the cardboard tubes from the fabric rolls to cook their meals on the roof of their home/factory in the middle of downtown Kathmandu. We learned from Kamal that Jasper's mother, Nanu, has been burning broken wooden furniture and window frames (detritus from the earthquakes) for cooking in the absence of fuel or firewood.
Cooking gas is the most treasured item now in Kathmandu. Endless lines are everywhere.. this is at Balaju near Thamel, Kathmandu… people were literally camping days and nights to get a cooking gas… and same for fuel for two and four wheeler…and its been months… only in Nepal…this is collective punishment against basic Human Rights please SHARE, the world needs to know…Posted by Daniel Tamang on Thursday, November 19, 2015
Short drive-by video from Thamel, Kathmandu on November 6 (5 weeks ago) of propane tanks for cooking lined up waiting in vain for refills. Video courtesy of Daniel/Kumar K Tamang. (Can't see a video above? Click this).
Now that it's not possible to refill cooking fuel, people with access to funds and electricity are purchasing induction heating plates: these have created an additional draw on the country's already-fragile and undersized power system. Black-outs have increased to 12 hours per day despite the recent end to the monsoon (which fills up reservoirs for their hydroelectric system).
What about Jasper and Resmi and Komol?
Their schools are still running since reopening after the long earthquake-caused closures. Resmi boards at her school, so transportation is not an issue for her. Jasper and Komol are walking to school with mom Nanu when the school bus cannot run - a 40-minute walk (carry!) each way. They are going to school 6 days a week.
What about our Manufacturer and Jackets for Jasper?
Just like two years ago when Nepal held a national election that affected Jackets for Jasper, these nation-wide problems are of course having a similar effect on our jacket manufacturer.
October is a joyous month in Nepal with many major festivals. Everyone returns to their villages, including 4 of our manufacturer's 6 workers whose families live near the Indian border. When festivals ended in late October, the fuel crisis was already in full swing and transportation back to Kathmandu was very difficult: the tailors could simply not get back to work.
Despite all this, our always-optimistic manufacturer Rajan soldiers on. And just this week, he is back to a full crew of 6 working, although with reduced capacity due to 'everything shortages'.
What About The Last of the 2015 Shipments?
Now that the tailors are all back in Kathmandu, Rajan and his crew are finishing our last order from 2015: the jackets being sewn are Women's XL Classics and Hoodies and Men's XL and XXL Classics. In December, we had hoped to receive almost 200 jackets but we received only 55 - Men's Hoodies in all sizes and some Women's Classics in XL (now available online and at DCO).
They are still working as best they can, and in the new year they will send us what they have made. By asking them to continue working on our 2015 stock despite the late date, we can keep them working through January and into February making the jackets some had hoped to receive before Christmas.
Helpful No Matter The Season!
With everything going on in Nepal, Liz and I are constantly brought back to reality by our “First World Problems” and the realization that our problems are never so bad. The situation in Nepal is bad. Very bad. So once again, we ask for your patience and support for J4J.
No matter what time of year you purchase a jacket, you’re not just sending Resmi, Jasper and Komol to school, you are also ensuring that Rajan, Hajrat, Nuran, Mohammed, Sano Ganesh, Thulo Ganesh and Santosh are able to earn a fair wage and support their families.
What else have you bought lately that makes such a direct impact?