As we enter the festive season here in the UK, I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on the turbulent year we have all had, and share some thoughts on what the winter months are likely to mean for the children and families we support in Nepal.
Whilst winter in Nepal invariably brings hardship and ill-health for those in the most difficult situations, living hand to mouth in challenging conditions without heating or basic services, this year it will be far worse. The pandemic has had a widespread and devastating impact across the country and denied thousands of families a consistent source of income. As winter sets in, the economic pressures and the health risks for the most vulnerable families will increase dramatically, as they struggle not only to buy food, but also firewood and warm clothing to protect themselves from the cold and the risks of contracting evermore commonplace winter ailments e.g. chest infections and influenza. Treatment and medications are prohibitive for the poorest families, increasing the risk of long term harm and even more worrying in the current context, with the risk of more severe outcomes should any of them contract the coronavirus.
As we know from our extensive experience, these challenges don’t exist in a vacuum and have a knock on effect on children’s safety and protection. Throughout the year, our teams have identified numerous instances of child exploitation, including child marriage, trafficking, child labour and sexual abuse, as children and families become more desperate and struggle to cope. These are issues that we have spent decades addressing, and had made great strides in improving, for example, contributing towards a 73% reduction in child labour levels in Pokhara over the past five years. It is very troubling to witness the ways in which the pandemic has brought these issues back to the forefront of our work and as we focus on the pressing needs on the ground, there is no doubt that the services we provide are more essential than ever.
This work is not possible without the kindness and generosity of our supporters, and we could not be more grateful for all the help we have received this year. Whether you climbed Everest from home, swum the English Channel, made and distributed masks in our aid, or donated the cost of your morning coffee, you have played an integral role in improving the lives of thousands of vulnerable children in Nepal – so an enormous THANK YOU to you all!
Finally whilst 2020 has undoubtedly been a very difficult year for all of us, rather than focus on the negatives, I encourage you to take heart from some of the incredible acts of kindness, generosity and community spirit that have emerged from the pandemic, to enjoy the festive season in whatever form it has to take and to look forward to 2021 with renewed hope.
With very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,
Janice Miller, Chief Executive