Not to downplay the earthquakes that rocked this country 6 months ago, but guess what: something even worse is happening now. Since this is a political struggle rather than a natural disaster, the international media doesn’t seem to be very interested.
Some background: A new government
After the “people’s revolution” which overthrew the monarchy, this country waited for nearly a decade to finalize a constitution. In September, it was finally signed! We now have a new prime minister, as well as a new (female!) president, who acts as a figure head. This is very exciting news, and a progressive step, hopefully towards a more stable government.
Not everyone is happy with the constitution. The Hindu party dislikes the clause making this a secular country. The Madeshi party, an ethnic group in the south, feels that the way state borders have been redrawn will make them powerless, removing their majority vote in the federal government. Since before the constitution was signed, they have been making their opinions known and threatening violence, a threat which has since been acted on, causing destruction of property and the death of police and civilians.
Due to the strikes that have now lasted for 2 months, the border with our neighbor to the south has been effectively closed. The blockade is unofficial, but it has effectively shut down our country. Relief has been sought through a contract with our neighbor to the north, but only a limited flow of supplies can came through the treacherous mountain roads that until recently were totally blocked by the earthquakes.
Shortages of… everything
This country, because of its landlocked position and high mountain borders, relies heavily on its southern neighbor for, well, just about everything. 100% of petroleum, cooking gas, and airline fuel come to us overland, as well as other essentials, such as rice and milk, and nonessentials, such as diapers, trash bags, and popcorn. Roads are empty, hospitals lack necessary medicines, schools are closing because teachers cannot get there. 90% of restaurants are closed, busses are dangerously full, and factories are shutting down. Banks threaten to close, as they cannot stay secure without backup generator power, the tourist industry suffers, and many individuals in the city are forced to cook over fires on their rooftops, rain or shine.
Over one month ago, it was determined that this crisis had already had a larger economic effect than the earthquakes last spring. As the crisis continues, people are beginning to lose heart. The biggest holiday season of the year came and went with little ado; besides lacking supplies to properly celebrate, most people are in survival mode, not in a celebratory mood. I have heard it said several times: after the earthquakes, there was hope as people helped each other. Now no one has supplies, and so no one is able to come to their fellow countrymen’s aid.
As the crisis seems to drag on and on, no one can guess how or when it will end. Cold winter temperatures loom ahead, and with them power outages that will increase to up to 20 hours per day. Earthquake victims in hard to reach areas still await supplies that are unlikely to come. As the blockage turns into a humanitarian crisis, we continue to do all we can: watch and wait.