Nepal: Long-term IDPs still living in poverty
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||13 March 2009|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Nepal: Long-term IDPs still living in poverty, 13 March 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49be0a221e.html [accessed 11 December 2013]|
KATHMANDU, 13 March 2009 (IRIN) - Eight years ago, Kamrik Gharti Magar had a secure income, a large farm, dozens of cattle, a comfortable house and a happy family.
But that changed after he and his family were forced to flee their home in the face of Maoist death threats during the 1996-2006 "People's War".
Magar, aged 60, now lives in a tiny, one-room shack with his five children and wife near the polluted River Bishnumati in Kathmandu. A stench of garbage pervades the air, and his younger children often get sick because of the unsanitary conditions in which they live.
The neighbours constantly badger Magar to vacate the government land on which he has built his shelter. He gets not just verbal abuse but is also sometimes physically assaulted, he said, adding: "Where can I go? Who will help us?"
Magar is too old and weak to find a strenuous labouring job - the only kind of work available to an illiterate person like himself.
Over 50,000 displaced
Life for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) like Magar is grim. Many are crowded into fetid slums in Kathmandu and other cities where they are totally neglected by the government, according to local NGOs.
In a mid-2008 IDP report produced by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of IDPs in Nepal was estimated to be 50,000-70,000, and UN officials say these numbers will not have changed since then.
"There is virtually nothing for them to return to. They have no house or other resources to generate income," said Geeta Gautam, an official from the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), a local human rights NGO.
The Nepal Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, which is responsible for the welfare of the IDPs, is still in the process of setting up poverty alleviation, health care and employment programmes, but has been unable to make much progress due to a lack of reliable data, officials said.
Children, women most vulnerable
Activists and experts working on the IDP issue are concerned about the growing vulnerability of women and children - the worst victims of displacement-induced poverty.
"Children's education has been severely hampered and the women have great difficulty supporting their families," explained Gautam.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said there was an urgent need for national IDP policy to be implemented: IDPs should be able to return to their former villages, and get reintegrated and resettled. NRC country director Phillipe Clerc said he was concerned by the apparent lack of government interest in the matter.
Even two years after the launch of the national IDP policy, a large number of women are still seeking information on civil documentation, widows' allowances, property restitution, children's education and shelter, said Clerc.
The plight of women is typified by 45-year-old displaced woman Dharma Maya in Kathmandu. "I can't even provide enough food for my children. I don't know how long we have to survive in this way," she said.
"This is my youngest daughter, Meena, who was born a 'bisthapit' [displaced person] in this miserable condition," she explained.
Maya is the only breadwinner in the family. She is forced to work 12 hours a day in different houses as a domestic servant. She supplements her income by selling wood she collects from the forest, a three-hour trek away.
"It's a very dangerous job because often I have to run away from the local community, and the army has banned outsiders from entering the forest. But what choice do I have?" asked Maya.