The general carping of U.K. opposition party left wing politicians, plus incessant negativity from leftie infiltrated U.K. media about our government’s handling of the Covid pandemic has now become laughable rather than depressing. In fact I would go so far as to say that it’s actually helping to reduce mental health problems as well as ensuring that the Labour Party got trounced across the U.K. in last weeks local elections. However, elsewhere on the planet there are countries where the pandemic is increasing exponentially and our politicians and media should be turning their gaze on places who have been our REAL friends and allies for a very long time.
We are all aware of the shocking situation in India for example; an exponential rise in Covid infections, a corresponding rise in fatalities. We also read about a shortage of ventilators and oxygen. Prime Minister Modhi is rightly blamed for his complacency plus the lax behaviour of the general population in ignoring common sense safety precautions. A particularly horrendous example was the recent Kumbh Mela, a Hindu festival, which went ahead in India with 9.1 million people taking part!
India will overcome and recover from this, they are not an impoverished country without resources ……. unlike its next door neighbour Nepal, which I have very close ties with. My wife of 50 years, Dr C, was born in Kathmandu. We have a large family connection there which flows from my wife’s three sisters and three brothers which naturally includes many nieces, nephews, and their children too. We also have a huge community of friends based on my mountaineering days, plus the fact that we ran an education charity for 10 years in Kathmandu with 8 staff who developed 200 schools! A great deal of this is described in my book An Englishman in Nepal.
Currently, the emails, texts and phone calls we receive on a daily basis are full of panic. Panic is fuelled by fear, fear is fuelled by a useless government, posturing Parliament, and corrupt local officials who have displayed a level of arrogance, ignorance and incompetence that far surpasses the level of similar features we experienced during our education battles and the earthquake disaster of 2015. Quite simply the people in Nepal are panicking because they have no hope, they are beyond despair because they see no vaccines, no hospital beds, no oxygen and no cylinders to fill even if they had any. Instant cremations are conducted by the military as bodies are removed from families with no funeral and no “grave”.
This has become very personal. One of our nephews recently died from Covid within 3-4 days of displaying symptoms. The son of another nephew, Binesh who is 36 also has Covid, as did his mother but she recovered, however his mother in law has it too and is in hospital. A very close friend, Babita, who led our education aid team in Kathmandu sent me an email a few days ago in complete despair: Here’s what she said:
“We are not able to believe how on earth these politician brats are sucking people’s blood and sweat and do nothing about this pandemic. My mind is not working properly, my colleague’s wife died, WFP’s driver died. My friend’s mom is in ICU, she had to struggle for 4 days to find an ICU bed , and stayed in emergency for 4 days. We all searched for oxygen then finally Bipesh got a cylinder from his brother’s connection.Yesterday she got an ICU in Bir Hospital. Private hospitals are taking unbelievable charges which normal people will not be able to bear and our government is doing nothing on this as well . Everyday we are getting news of sick people who we know, relatives, friends, neighbours. Today we have Mother’s day so I called my mom and wished her well. Things are getting worse day by day, what to do?”Babita Shrestha, Chairwoman, Nepal Education Leadership Foundation
Like everyone else the Nepal government has been aware of the pandemic for 18 months. Being a poor country is not a crime, but failing to get organised for a spreading pandemic, failing to take restrictive steps such as lockdowns, not policing the border with India, not repairing broken down oxygen plants, not creating emergency facilities for infected citizens, is as close as you can get to a “crime against humanity”. They are also directly complicit; the ex King Gyanendra and a posse of aides went to India a couple of weeks ago for the Kumbh Mela festival and bathed in the Ganges along with the other 9.1 million! So did 27 Nepali politicians. And …… guess what …….. they brought back Covid with them and are now suffering themselves! Meanwhile Prime Minister Oli is dealing with a no-confidence in parliament, refusing to resign though he lost, and is spending his time trying to make deals with the myriad of other parties to create a coalition. If ever a country was ripe for a people’s revolution or a military coup it’s Nepal.
I don’t want to end this post with a plea to everyone for aid to Nepal, I’ve already written to my Member of Parliament and he has promised to raise the issue with ministers and in parliament; it’s not about raising money which would only be diverted by the corrupt politicians in Kathmandu. Nepal needs DIRECT help just like after an earthquake disaster …… but provided through the UN …… though hang on a minute …… I also have a nephew whose house was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake and yet has had no relief and is living with his family in a cousin’s house. So, before you start whinging about the efforts of your own government, spare a thought for Nepal who have no vaccines, no beds, no oxygen cylinders and no oxygen. Outcome ……. no hope!
In my next post I’ll describe how the brilliant U.K. vaccination programme worked at “light speed” and how life will never be the same as we enter a “new normal”