Nepali Times

Youths stay home

Friday, May 22nd, 2015
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After the earthquake, most youths have cancelled their plans to migrate abroad . They are, instead, busy rebuilding their destroyed houses. Photo: Om Astha Rai

The 25 April earthquake is expected to accelerate the rate at which Nepal’s youths are migrating abroad for works.

But the earthquake’s initial impact is just opposite: the deaths and destruction have led to a dramatic fall in the number of youths flying overseas.

Only a little more than 30,000 youths, mostly from the districts unaffected by the earthquake, have left the country since 25 April.

According to the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), altogether 52,210 youths had left the country for overseas jobs from mid March to mid April.  But this number fell to just 31,375 people in the following month (mid April-mid May).

The DoFE officials say virtually no one has left the country from the earthquake-affected districts since 25 April. The 3125 youths migrating abroad in this period left the country either a few days before 25 April or from the unaffected districts.

Ganesh Gurung, an expert on migration and remittance economy, says the drop in the number of youths leaving the country is temporary and more men and women will migrate abroad in the months to come.

“Most people who lost their homes in the earthquake are likely to migrate abroad to pay off loans that they take to rebuild their houses,” says Gurung.

The earthquake has severely affected 16 districts, leaving more than 8,000 people dead and 18,000 people wounded. The catastrophe also destroyed around 600,000 houses.

The migration trend seems to have reversed in the first month of the earthquake, with youths staying home and those who were already abroad returning to rebuild their homes.

 


Disaster is not over: WHO

Friday, May 22nd, 2015
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World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday stressed the need for restoration of health facilities damaged by the 25 April earthquake.

“One month since the earthquake, we know that the disaster is far from over,” said Poonam Khetrapal, WHO’s regional director, in a press statement. “With the monsoons fast approaching, there are more challenges ahead – to urgently restore primary health care services, even temporarily, provide water-proof medical tents, essential medicines and keep a strict vigil on any disease outbreak.”

WHO said that managing the injured, providing rehabilitation support to those discharged from the hospitals and psychosocial support to the affected population as well as ensuring the regular services for maternal and child care, communicable diseases such as TB are its ongoing priorities.

“The challenge is to address all the issues before the rainy season,” reads the statement.

WHO said it has stationed District Support Officers in the 14 highly affected districts to coordinate response and strengthen disease surveillance. Deployment of more than 100 Foreign Medical Teams (FMTs) that came to Nepal to support emergency response is also being planned with partners and Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP), reads the statement.

“We are committed to support Nepal’s health system to deliver life-saving and essential services to its people and build back resilient health facilities that will be safe in emergencies,” said Singh.

The earthquake damaged 26 hospitals, and more than 1100 health facilities and 90 per cent of the health facilities outside the main towns were rendered non-functional.


Sherpa new Tourism Minister

Friday, May 22nd, 2015
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Prime Minister Sushil Koirala administrates the oath of office and secrecy to the newly appointed Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Kripasur Sherpa on Friday in a presence of President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav and the Vice President Parmananda Jha at President's Official Residence Sitalniwas, Kathmandu. Photo: Kumar Shrestha/RSS

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala administrates the oath of office and secrecy to the newly appointed Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Kripasur Sherpa on Friday. Photo: RSS

CPN (UML) on Friday recommended Kripasur Sherpa as new Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

Sherpa will succeed Deepak Chandra Amatya in the Sushil Koirala government. Koirala administered the oath of office and secrecy to Sherpa Friday.

Sherpa is the third UML leader to become Tourism Minister in the Koirala government. Just one year ago, Amatya had replaced Bhim Acharya as Tourism Minister.

Acharya is a relative of UML leader Jhal Nath Khanal. UML had replaced Acharya with Amatya, Khanal’s former personal secretary.

Amatya’s father, Sushil Chandra Amatya, was a member of the first Constituent Assembly, but he vacated his seat for UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal.

Amatya was forced to step down after ‘he failed to perform well’ in the government. He submitted his resignation on Thursday.

UML leader Pradip Gyawali said Amatya was recalled from the government because his performance was ‘weak’ as Tourism Minister. “The party assessed that he was not capable of leading a ministry,” said Gyawali.

UML leader Ghanshyam Bhusal said that Amatya was recalled because ‘there was criticism against his lack of competence within the party’.

Sherpa, too, does not have experience of leading a ministry. He rose to prominence only after winning the last Constituent Assembly (CA) elections.


WFP denies ‘rotten rice’ report

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
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indexWorld Food Programme (WFP) has denied a report that it distributed inedible rice among the earthquake survivors in Kavre and Sindhupalchok district.

“We investigated recent claims about rice in Kavre district and found no evidence that rice distributed (there) was inedible,” said WFP in a press statement on Thursday.

National Human Rights Council (NHRC) had claimed that rice distributed by WFP in some villages of Kavre and Sindhupalchok district was inedible. NHRC had also instructed Chief District Officers of Kavre and Sindhupalchok district to stop distribution of rice provided by WFP.

WFP, through its press statement, informed that a sample of food distributed in Kavre was tested by Nepal’s Centre for Quality Surveillance (CQS), and it was found that ‘the rice was edible and nutritious but had a slightly higher percentage of broken rice than the 25 percent quality standard’.

“While broken rice is still perfectly edible and nutritious, we understand that there is often a preference for rice that is less than 25 percent broken,” reads the statement. “We are no longer using this local supplier (who supplied food to Kavre and Sindhupalchok districts).

In Kavre, WFP had distributed more than 2,000 quintals of rice through Nepal Red Cross Society.

In Nepal, WFP has been distributing rice in remote and inaccessible districts reeling under severe food crisis.

 


Ban on new orphanages

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015
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CCWBWary of child trafficking in the wake of the 25 April earthquake that left scores of children orphans and homeless, the government has imposed a ban on the registration of new orphanages in Nepal.

The Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), a government body that monitors children’s homes, says the ban will be revoked – or extended – only after carrying out an assessment for the need of new orphanages.

“The ban will minimise the risk of child trafficking,” said the CCWB’s Executive Director Tarak Dhital. “Some people are already getting to the earthquake-hit villages and getting children together – mostly not orphans – to open new orphanages, we want to stop them with this ban.”

The CCWB has also made it mandatory for all orphanages to seek its consent before transferring children out of orphanages damaged by the earthquake. “Relocation gives child traffickers an opportunity,” says Dhital.

Many orphanages damaged by the earthquake are now moving their children out of Kathmandu Valley, which Dhital admits has not been monitored at all. “We don’t know who are relocating how many children and where,” he says. “We’re afraid some of the children might be trafficked while being moved.”

Dhital says there are already ‘more than enough’ orphanages in Kathmandu Valley. The latest data shows 9,968 children living in 560 orphanages in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts.

Officials say the number of children ending up in orphanages is bound to rise dramatically after the earthquake. They are also aware of some traffickers separating children from parents by exploiting the misery inflicted upon the families by the earthquake.

The CCWB has already sent back 45 children, who were brought from Dhading to Kathmandu after the earthquake, to their families. “They all have families but were separated and brought to Kathmandu as orphans,” says Namuna Bhushal of the CCWB. “Their parents’ informed consent was not secured and the local authorities were not informed.”

The Maoist war led to a surge in the number of orphans and orphanages. Child rights activists now fear that the earthquake might cause a similar flow. Nearly 16,000 children are now living in 585 orphanages across Nepal.

Om Astha Rai


The pain of the living

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
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When the earth started shaking, Kancha Pakhrin was in his home in the remote village of Thangpalkot of Sindhupalchok. His two-month-old and two-year sons, and 80-year-old partially blind mother were inside the house.

Kancha Pakhrin Nepal earthquake

WE ARE FAMILY: Kancha Pakhrin lost his wife and two-month-old baby when his home in Sindhupalchok collapsed in the earthquake last month. His worry now is how to feed and educate those still living, including his mother (at back) who broke her leg and still hasn’t got treatment. Photo: Devaki Bista

Kancha was weeding his cornfield, and saw his wife, Chameli, rush into the house to save her boys. The house collapsed in a cloud of dust.

Chameli was later found dead amidst the ruins, she was holding her baby tightly in her arms. But the baby died 17 days later, possibly due to malnourishment and lack of care. His mother broke her leg, but managed to save the older boy.

Among Kancha’s three other children, Kirti is studying in Delhi, his mother hasn’t been able to go to hospital to get her broken leg treated even though helicopters fly overhead all the time.

Two-year-old Jivan keeps asking Kancha where his mother is, as does his other son, Sandip. “What do I tell them?” Kancha asks. His sister-in-law Gita has come from Delhi, and says Kriti still doesn’t know her mother is dead.

“I think I will go mad with worry about how to take care of my remaining family,” Kancha says. “How will I feed them, how will I educate them?”

Devaki Bista


Tourism is down, but not out

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
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To revive tourism, let’s invite Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi back to Janakpur, Lumbini and Muktinath

OM ASTHA RAI

Besides the death and destruction, last month’s earthquake has dealt the most devastating blow to Nepal’s tourism industry. Hotels are damaged, trekking routes have been wiped out, Kathmandu’s World Heritage sites lie in ruins.

In the first weeks after the disaster, flights out of Nepal were full of tourists, then came the cancellations of booking, not just for May but for the rest of the year. Many hotels in Thamel have zero occupancy, although some of the bigger hotels have relief workers, aid agency representatives and crew of rescue flights.

Despite this, tourism entrepreneurs, experts and officials believe that the impact of the Gorkha Earthquake will not be long-term, and such is the draw of Nepal, its mountains and people that tourists will start coming back from the autumn season. In fact, this newspaper has started a social media campaign #VisitNepalAutumn2015, advising those who want to help Nepal to come here, go on long treks, use homestays and help create jobs.

After the earthquake, several countries warned their citizens not to visit the country except if they were involved in rescue and relief. Today, Thamel wears a deserted look, the Everest Trail and other trekking routes are abandoned, and even Pokhara where there wasn’t much damage is largely empty.

Hotel owners, trekking companies and travel agents say tourism may actually start picking up even during the monsoon, since that is the ideal time to visit Manang, Mustang and Dolpo which are in the Himalayan rainshadow. Tibet-bound transit tourists would also be making stopovers, as in previous years.

“Nepal has a niche adventure tourism market and that category of visitors will not be deterred for long,” says Yogendra Shakya of the Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN). “We just need to spread the word that our infrastructure is intact and ready before the autumn season.”

But he admits that there will still be residual hesitancy about visiting Nepal.  “No matter how well we promote Nepal’s tourism and say all is well here, they will still have their doubts,” he says, stressing the need for a creative promotion strategy.

Narendra Modi

Photo: Bikram Rai

“For example, this would be the time for our prime minister to invite Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi to visit Janakpur, Lumbini and Muktinath where he could not go last time,” Shakya says. “It would send a strong message to Indian pilgrim tourists and the world that Nepal is open for business.”

The international community has gone out of its way to help Nepal, and tourism entrepreneurs say that could be Nepal’s strongest selling point. We just need to convert that goodwill into a willingness to visit.

The government can actively promote trekking areas of the country not affected by the earthquake, pilgrimages, and conference tourism to get the industry back on its feet.

“Tourists should not be worried about Nepal, in a few months the hotels and infrastructure will all be restored,” says former HAN president, Shyam Lal Kakshapati. In fact, 90 per cent of the hotels are not damaged, and many that are can be repaired and retrofitted.

A government committee has inspected 15 hotel buildings, and only one of the wings of the Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel has a red sticker. All five-star hotels in the capital have got safe green stickers.

Amar Shakya, a member of the committee, says inspection was halted after the 12 May aftershock and will resume. “Our preliminary inspection shows most hotel buildings have not suffered structural damage,” he says.

The government has already formed a Tourism Recovery Committee in partnership with HAN and Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) to repair damaged trekking routes, heritage sites and promote safe tourism destinations.

The earthquake was just the latest in a series of disasters to hit Nepal. Last year’s Everest avalanche killed 16 climbers, and the Annapurna blizzard in October left 80 people dead including foreign trekkers. Despite this, a record number of tourists visited Nepal in 2014, boosted by an influx of visitors from China and India.

Tourism has a capacity to heal itself, the only question is how will the Nepal tourism Board and the government deal with the necessary international promotion to bring visitors back in 2015 and beyond.

Read also:

Monumental loss Stéphane Huët 

Langtang lament

Extreme Everest Bhrikuti Rai and Matt Miller   

After the storm Kunda Dixit  


 

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