While people in some parts of the world are looking forward to celebrating Christmas this year, Catholics in Nepal are preparing for a black Christmas because of an economic siege imposed by neighboring India.
Higher officials in the church told Catholic News Service that the situation has reached “crisis point” because winter has settled in and supplies of fuel for vehicles and cooking gas have decreased and electricity service has become intermittent.
Director of Caritas Nepal, Fr Pius Perumana said “The situation here is worse than the (post-) earthquake scenario. It will be a very harsh Christmas for us this year”.
“The economic blockade has crippled life here. We have hardly any electricity, fuel or cooking gas. We are using firewood for cooking,” Fr Perumana added.
“The relief work had been hit badly. When there is no fuel, regular transport or commodities available, what can you do?” the priest said. The earthquake has left more than 8,000 dead and thousands homeless.
Fr Perumana expressed sadness over the catastrophe saying, “Nepal has slipped into a “horrible situation” with acute shortage of essential items, including medicine and food”.
“Many of the charities have scaled down the relief work due to the lack of supplies and logistical problems”. Fr Perumana told CNS.
Chirendra Satyal, spokesman for the Catholic vicariate of Nepal, confirmed that the situation is “worse than after the earthquake.”
He lamented saying: People travel precariously atop crowded buses, banks are open for a few hours a day and staff in government offices rotate working shifts, slowing the response to constituent needs.
Sajiya Gurung, 18, from Kathmandu, one of the survivors of the devastating earthquakes in Nepal said:
“The earthquake was terrifying. Some of my relatives and friends lost their lives and some of us survived.
“Most people could not go back to their homes after both earthquakes. There were many aftershocks and everything was moving around. Everyone had to stay outside.
“We had to sleep on the street for three nights. Even though we were outside, we were afraid that the houses would fall down on us.
“It was also very cold at night, we only had one or two blankets which we had to share.
“We couldn’t even stay at a shelter because we thought it would fall down on us.
“I will spend Christmas with my friends and family. I’m appreciative of life now because you don’t know if you’re going to die tomorrow.”
According to CNS,Salesian Father Joji John from the Don Bosco Technical Institute at Thecho said,“Our (earthquake) rehabilitation and reconstruction work is held up badly as the cost of commodities has gone up by leap and bounds”.
“We are not able to visit our area of operations due to the shortage of fuel,” he added. “The most affected are the people in remote areas where they are still living in tents and fighting with the cold winter.”
“(The) fuel shortage and black market has brought movement of relief agencies to a halt,” he told CNS in an email.