The earthquake in Nepal killed thousands, but the blockade can kill millions

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‘The earthquake killed thousands but the blockade can kill millions’

The situation in Nepal is desperate, reports Emily Korstanje.

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A blind elderly woman living in a remote village. With the current lack of fuel, ambulances are not able to travel across the country, resulting in many people unable to get to hospitals. © Emily Korstanje

Nepal has had many problems in the last year. No-one thought it could get worse. But it has. Now there is a blockade on the border with India, so no fuel, food and medicine can get in the country. UNICEF says that more than three million children under five could die or get a disease. ‘It will get worse in winter,’ said Karin Hulshof (UNICEF Regional Director). ‘Children need protection from disease, cold and hunger. UNICEF says it is very important for everyone to work to stop the restrictions on bringing what they need into Nepal. And it must be quick.’

There is now snow at the foot of the mountains, and it is getting colder. Most of the people affected by the earthquake are nearer the mountains. They will have many problems this winter, without proper homes, medical aid or fuel.

UNICEF says that ambulances cannot get across the country. So there are not so many healthy births at hospitals and health centres. If there is no heating, more babies will suffer and die.

‘The earthquake killed thousands but the blockade can kill millions,’ said Sapana Basyal chair of local NGO.

Because of the earthquake, the NGO has been helping the people who suffered most. But they cannot help so much now because they can’t get fuel. ‘Survivors of the earthquake are living in very simple houses. When they get ill, they will not be able to go to the hospital,’ Sapana said. ‘They will die. This is an emergency.’

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Buses waiting in line for petrol. Most buses have to buy fuel on the black-market eg. school buses so the schools can stay open. Emily Korstanje

Many restaurants and hotels have closed and there is very little tourism. If you can find cooking gas, it is very expensive. Transportation is now five times the average price.

People and businesses use firewood to survive. But firewood brings in the houses. Last year resulted in 800,000 children got pneumonia and 5,000 died. Now there are no medical supplies or vehicles to help. When people cut the trees, this causes dangerous landslides in these cold and rainy months.

The Nepalese government says India is responsible for the blockade. The people of Nepal are feeling tired and bitter to India and their own government for not stopping this. Also, people say the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has been making money from black-market fuel.

‘We need our government to do something. They say they are talking. Talking to protesters in the south, talking to India, talking to China, but where is the action?’ Sapana said. ‘It’s making us all feel hopeless and very angry.’

But the government ‘talks’ have brought many promises but not many changes in the situation.

Nepal tried to get free from control by India and asked China for fuel. But the earthquake destroyed the already dangerous route to China. So it is very difficult for supply trucks to get through. They tried to bring in some supplies, but it was too dangerous, so China will not be able to bring in what is needed until the road is fixed, which will take a long time.

The people in Nepal are extremely worried. The situation will get worse soon. Most people have lost hope in the government. They want other countries to help. They don’t want charity. They want countries to put pressure on India and Nepal to solve the problem at the border. They need the world to know about it.

‘The best way to help us is to tell people - in the media and social media. Let the world know that millions will die if we don’t get the supplies we need,’ Sapana said.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2015/12/20/nepal-winter-crisis/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).