Nepal | September 29, 2020

City’s squatters, homeless stare at spectre of starvation

Ujjwal Satyal
Share Now:

Kathmandu, March 29

Bhim Bahadur Rai, 44, and his wife Sumitra Giri, 44, have not eaten anything for the past two days, thanks to the coronavirus lockdown, which has brought economic activities to a standstill.

The couple used to rummage through the garbage and pick up recyclable items, such as plastic and metal, before selling them to earn a living. But the lockdown, which began on Tuesday, has threatened their livelihood, as no one is allowed to move outside.

This morning, the couple, however, defied the government’s order to stay indoors and wandered around the streets of Kaushaltar. “We came out to find food,” said Giri, as tears welled up her eyes. The mother of a six-year-old daughter was not even in a condition to stand properly, as she told THT she and her family did not even have access to clean drinking water.

Nepal Count
Updated COVID-19 figures till Sunday
Confirmed cases 5
Discharged 1
Total tests 917
New tests 42
Source: MoHP

Giri and Rai are homeless people who live in a squatter settlement on the banks of Hanumante River at Kaushaltar in Bhaktapur. The couple have called a hume pipe lying strewn nearby the river their home for quite some time. Around 60 households live in the settlement and most of the families are facing the same problem like Giri and Rai.

“My husband has resisted the lockdown order and gone out to find work,” said Anjali Chaudhary, 29. Chaudhary’s husband used to work as an ear cleaner. “But at this moment he is willing to do any work that comes along his way, as we will have to sleep on an empty stomach from today if he does not bring home some money,” said Chaudhary, as she tried to soothe her crying infant daughter in her lap.

Bir Bahadur Rai, 46, another person who lives in the settlement, is facing the same problem. He was given stale noodles last evening by a small eatery nearby. But whether he can find food today is a thought that has been haunting him.

“We generally survive on leftovers. But since the lockdown, restaurants have remained closed and we are struggling to find food. I don’t know how I’m going to survive,” said Bir Bahadur, who is in the same profession as Bhim Bahadur and Giri.

As THT was talking to these people, the public that had gathered in the area offered them food. But there is no guarantee that more volunteers will come to their aid in the coming days as lockdown has crippled movement of people.

The lockdown has received widespread public support as many say this is the only way a country like Nepal with a fragile healthcare system can contain the spread of COVID-19. But it is taking a toll on the urban poor.

Most of the urban poor in Kathmandu valley either live on the roadsides or in squatter settlements. It is not known how many people live in squatter settlements in the valley. But many of those living on roadsides have lately been moved to proper houses.

Kathmandu Metropolitan City with the support of philanthropic organisation, Manab Sewa Aashram, had recently initiated a campaign to rehabilitate homeless people living on the roadsides of the metropolis, transferring around 1,000 homeless people from roadsides to elderly homes, foster homes and homes of their own families.

Today, there are around 600 people living on the roadsides of the valley, according to Manab Sewa Aashram. “These people may suffer the most during lockdown as they may not find food to eat,” said the Aashram’s Chairperson Ramji Adhikari. “Timely action is a must. Otherwise, these people may die of hunger.” Lately, various local governments across the valley have started collecting data on such needy people. “We have called on individuals to inform us about such needy people. We are also formally gathering information about them,” said Madhyapur Thimi Municipality Spokesperson Ram Thapa.


A version of this article appears in print on March 30, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Another woman succumbs to COVID-19 at BPKIHS

KATHMANDU: A woman infected with COVID-19 succumbed to the disease at BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences (BPKIHS), on Monday morning. The 38-year-old woman from Dharan Sub-metropolitan City of Sunsari district had been undergoing treatment at the emergency ward of the hospital. She was ad Read More...

1,351 new cases take Nepal’s coronavirus tally to 74,745 on Monday

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s coronavirus tally moved to 74,745 as 1,351 new infections were reported in the last 24 hours. As many as 742 people that had earlier contracted Covid-19 tested negative for the infection as per the Ministry’s latest data. So far, 54,640 people have recovered from the diseas Read More...

Liverpool boss Klopp not anticipating any further arrivals

Liverpool will not make further additions to their squad in the transfer window unless they lose first-team players to injuries, manager Juergen Klopp has said. The reigning Premier League champions bolstered their squad with the signings of Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota and Kostas Tsimikas bu Read More...

"Planet is dying", India's 8-year-old climate crusader warns

NEW DELHI: When 8-year-old Indian climate change activist Licypriya Kangujam is older, she wants to launch a solo mission to the moon to research ways to save planet earth. One of the world's youngest climate change activists, Kangujam was influenced by the images of the devastation caused by Read More...

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 32.97 million, death toll over 994,000

At least 32,979,301 people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 994,217 people have died, a Reuters tally showed. Beijing on Monday called on importers to shun frozen food from countries suffering from severe novel coronavirus outbreaks after several cases Read More...

Baitadi district

Baitadi jail facing challenges due to overcrowding

BAITADI: District Jail, Baitadi has been facing problems in the management since it has been housing more than twice the number of jailbirds to its capacity. The jail is currently housing 58 persons including 31 inmates and 27 detainees. However, the prison only has the capacity to accommodate Read More...

Kathmandu Valley records 817 infections on Monday

KATHMANDU: Kathmandu valley logged over 800 additional cases of coronavirus infection in the last 24 hours. As per the Health Ministry’s latest report, 817 new infections surfaced in the valley today, which 60.47 per cent of the total caseload. Read Also: 1,351 new cases take Nepal’s coro Read More...

Four Covid-19 fatalities recorded on Monday, tally shifts to 481

KATHMANDU: Four people passed away from Covid-19 related complications in the last 24 hours, with which the nationwide death-toll has moved to 481. Two women two and men lost their lives due to this infection, the Health Ministry’s latest update showed. Read Also: 1,351 new cases take Nepal Read More...