PUSH-BACK: Fuel Shortage hitting Nepal

The April 2015 earthquake was one of the most destructive in Nepal’s History. It killed more than 8,000 people and displaced about 450,000. Massive landslides, centuries-old monuments crumbled in Kathmandu valley and avalanches swept through the Himalayas, including an avalanche at mt. Everest base camp that killed at least 20 mountaineers and native.

The devastation was extensive, but Nepal’s infrastructure was not irreparably damaged. After six months of devastating earthquake Nepal started to rebuilt itself: the streets in affected districts like Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and lalitpur are clear of rubble and its monuments are being rebuilt. Again the streets are started to clog with cars, motorcycles, trucks and rickshaws as before. One of my foreigner friend wrote to me “WoW! nice to read that Thamel is fine and the earthquakes’ impacts are practically invisible in that place. The popular Everest beer is served again.” Even the highways connecting capital city with other districts were also clear and appeared undamaged. Roadside cafes are open for business, serving buffets to dal bhat and tarkari. Nepal is returning to normal. Nepal’s tourism industry is back up and running.

And, adding to Nepal’s woes, recent protests over Nepal’s new constitution got hyped. The new constitution got adopted in 20th September, 2015. This spurred neighboring India to block transport trucks from entering Nepal, creating a nationwide fuel shortage that threatens to derail Nepal’s earthquake recovery.

Nepal gets 60 percent of all imports and nearly all of its oil from India. Nepal is a landlocked country and Nepal suffered badly after the blockage. India cut its flow of transport trucks into Nepal after protests against Nepal’s new constitution erupted in villages along Nepal’s southern boarder with India at the end of September. More than 40 people died in related violence.

The protesters claimed Nepal’s new constitution left Nepal’s southern border territories, which have close ethnic ties to India, under-represented in Nepal’s parliament and showed preference to northern highland territories.

India has been denying blockage of fuel supplies to Nepal, claiming protesters in southern Nepal were blocking the shipments. The Indian government issued a statement expressing concern over the protests and ensuring violence, as well as for the safety of its truck drivers who transport goods into Nepal. Nepal officials claim, however, that India has limited its fuel shipments to punish Nepal for its new constitution. Kathmandu has labeled India’s fuel blockade an infringement in Nepal’s internal affairs.

Evidence of the fuel shortage in Nepal is currently more ubiquitous than that of Earthquake damage.

Domestic airlines have been halted with increased in its ticket fared with double, Some airlines have canceled flights to Kathmandu since the fuel shortage began, while other have had to route flights to refuel outside Nepal. Daily transportation services have come to zero mobility, and taxi drivers no longer accept only one fare, cramming as many customers as possible into their cabs to minimize trips back and forth. Gas lines in Kathmandu valley stretch for kilometers. The local buses are over crowded with passengers sitting in luggage racks. Restaurants are now offering limited menus, and the remaining items are typically more expensive than usual.

Many Nepalese citizens have turned to burning wood to cook since there is not enough fuel for gas stoves and ovens.

Kathmandu has implemented fuel-rationing measures, limiting the fuel available to private vehicles. But many in Nepal claim rationing has created a fuel black market.

Consequently, prices on almost everything, from beer to eggs, have increased.

The Indian blockade has also ignited anti-Indian sentiment across Nepal. Protesters in Kathmandu rallying against the blockade chanted anti-Indian slogans, and buildings are spray painted with the graffiti “#backoffindia”. This reminds us the incident of Indian media’s interference during earthquake in Nepal.

The fuel shortage has hampered ongoing relief efforts to many of Nepal’s remote mountain villages, which were the hardest hit by the earthquake.


Youth Champions during Humanitarian Crisis

Youth Champions Nepal were planning for its country seminar to introduce itself among network working in dedication to young people’s sexual and reproductive health & rights when Nepal was struck by its worst earthquake in nearly a century on April 25, 2015. The earthquake destroyed nearly 600,000 and damaged almost 300,000 homes, and displaced some 2.8 million people. More than 8.800 people were killed, tens of thousands were injured. The people are still frightened by aftershocks and the devastation was compounded by number of powerful aftershocks.

Once the earthquake struck our cities, there was urgent need for food, water, shelter and other basic stuffs including first aid. There were numerous causalities reported in district hospitals. The first step of our Youth Champions Network in Nepal we distributed rice, dal, water, sugar, oils, traps & tents, etc. This is what we immediately understood about a humanitarian crisis of this nature. This was the first experience for us living in Kathmandu valley and dealing with natural disaster. But in-coordination with Asia Safe Abortion partnership we realized, there is also an urgent need to provide life-saving reproductive health services and to prevent and respond to gender based violence. Asia Safe Abortion Partnership allowed to use funds to prepare “Hygiene Kits” and distribute among women and girls being affected by earthquake.

“I am sharing about the situation in my community “Bhaktapur”. Since Bhaktapur is a very old and traditional city, most of the houses are made of mud and wood. The earthquake had destroyed most of the old and traditional homes of the Bhaktapur city. People are now staying in open places like field, party palaces, ground and even in dumping sites. We have been calling those places as “CAMPS”. As, the earth has decreased its vibration and we are getting after shocks which we are used to, people who have their house safe and fine to stay have returned to their places.

Among the people in the camps, there are limited tents, electricity, water and food. The people who have lost everything and do not have any alternatives are staying in the camps. As per our team’s observation, there are many pregnant women in the camps. In particular camp, there are 2- 3 women who are pregnant and 1-2 women who recently gave birth to their child. There are more than 25 campsites in Bhaktapur. Some of the places are unreachable as the pathways are closed due to destruction.

Since, there is no work at all and most of the people are emotionally challenged, alcohol has been the best alternatives to pass the time and means of entertainment in the camps. This is also affecting young women and they might be in risk of sexual abuse in coming days. Likewise, smoking among men has been tremendous which is in directly affecting pregnant women and women who just have delivered. As we have set-up our HELP DESK in Bhaktapur Hospitals, there are many changes regarding pregnancy after the devastating earthquake. I personally attended a couple, who were 3 months pregnant and came to visit hospital after the women started to feel the pain on her stomach as she jumped to escape from falling home. But the case was not serious.

Other remarkable affect on women’s health is there are physically and mentally been challenged by the situation. In one side, they have lost their near and dear ones and on other side they have lost their properties. In same time, there is overburden of the work to single women as they have lost their husband and now they suddenly have the responsibility of running the house. Other major effect is on sanitation. There are no proper toilets in CAMPs. Similarly scarcity of water, people are defecating wherever they like. There have been spread of many diseases and women have been the worse affected.

People in camps are mostly provided with raw noodles and biscuits. Proper nutritious food is not available to young women, pregnant women and women who have just delivered. Essential medication like TT, ANC/PNC, iron tab, etc. is also not available. There is a scarcity of contraceptives and we are unable to provide with much help, there are also women who had miscarriage during the situation but there is no care available for them. Health camps are being conducted by different organizations and medical teams have been mobilized but no one is focusing on women’s Sexual and Reproductive health.”- one of our Youth Champions Nepal

Likewise, our youth champions working in coordination with Bhaktapur Youth Information Centre were engaged in assessing pregnant women, lactating women, adolescent girls their SRH and VAW. By, there were many articles online as well in print media which had been reporting continuously about women and girls in crisis situations who face special perils. Pregnant women need ante-natal care, a clean, safe place to give birth and medical attention in the event of complications. new mothers need vital nutrients and postpartum care. And women and girls of all ages need protection from gender based violence, including sexual violence, which tragically follows in the wake of most humanitarian crisis.

“There is a drunken man in our tent. We are mostly girls and women in the tent and we don’t feel safe, him being around. I went and told the camp management committee but they told me to come and complain only if something happens, but won’t that be too late? It’s a day time, but he can do anything to us at night.” A young girl taking shelter in a temporary camp in Kamalbinayak, Bhaktapur.”- One of BYIF volunteers

One of our Youth Champions met Mrs. Sarita Fhutuwar of Balambau, Changunarayan. She is a mother of two daughter and now is pregnant of 8 months. She thought she would have a normal delivery as before but due to earthquake she is in deep thought and is not sure about her post pregnancy. Her house is also badly collapsed and now.lives outside the house in tent. This is the time where she (every pregnant women)has to be given especial care but situation is just the opposite. Keeping in mind her health and situation we BYIF supported her with.some supplements like horlicks, nuts and biscuits(which is enough until delivery). She was also assured that with help of FPAN we will refer her to hospital nearby for safe delivery. This has made her feel much secure and relief.

Then we released we need to come up with a kit that address immediate need of pregnant women, lactating women, adolescent girls and children. Youth Champions Nepal planned to develop hygiene kit with materials like maxi, sari, towel, soap, panties, comb, cream, mosquito coils, sanitary pads (home-made), socks, tooth paste, tooth brush, diapers, supplemental food for babies, torch, napkins, ear buds, nail cutters and more.

Nepal and Nepalese are rising from rubble. The crisis in Nepal is far from over. As Monsoon is here, it has been followed by landslides. Aftershocks are regular occurrences but monsoon has made it difficult for locals to clear all rubble. Meanwhile, human traffickers are targeting the region to abduct vulnerable women and girls. In many ways the dangers are as great as ever.