Nepal (MNN) — Flying around the Himalayan Mountains–delivering service workers, medicine and other life-giving supplies to the people of Nepal–is a demanding job. The staff of Mission Aviation Fellowship report many challenges that will make this winter a truly brutal experience for people living in remote mountain villages.
Stan Unruh is the MAF program manager for Nepal. MAF began working in Nepal after the April earthquake hit near the capital, Kathmandu, killing more than 8,000 and leaving countless others homeless. MAF is coordinating helicopter fights for relief workers providing shelter and supplies to struggling mountain communities.
The average January temperature for Kathmandu is a balmy 49 degrees, but placed at almost a mile high, the city’s population requires a lot of LP fuel to heat homes and cook food during the winter and gasoline to keep the country’s economy moving. Movement is becoming more difficult in this landlocked country as gasoline supplies dwindle. The central arteries from neighboring India are blockaded by protesters from the border area of Nepal and, Nepal officials suspect, by India itself. The blockade’s biggest effects are on the fuel supply, but medicine is being stopped and Unruh said MAF partners also have building supplies sitting on the India side of the border.
It’s particularly critical for the villages high in the mountains where the winter hits hardest and many are still living in tents. Winterization kits are being stopped by the blockade, Unruh says. It isn’t just the supplies for the indigenous inhabitants being held up. The blockade has caused fuel shortages that affect the relief agencies helping the Nepalese people.
Until the fuel supply began to diminish, trucks would deliver aid material as close to the village as they could get. MAF-leased helicopters would meet them at drop off points and shuttle the material to the otherwise inaccessible villages. But the trucks aren’t running anymore, and agencies are having problems getting aid where it is needed, not only from ports in India, but also from shorter distances within Nepal.
After three months of blockade, transportation is becoming an issue just to get staff to work, Unruh says. Right now, their auto fuel comes from the World Food Program.
“Should that fuel supply from the World Food Program be cut off, we’d have trouble even getting in to the office,” he says.
The supplies just are not showing up: they are sitting in trucks on the side of the road in India. “We have the capacity of flying 75 hours a week, but at the moment we’re averaging about 45 hours a week, and that is mainly because the relief supplies are not crossing the border to be delivered.”
Unruh is worried about the Nepalese who live in the remote villages that were destroyed by the earthquake, where residents count on fuel to make it through the winter. He is asking for prayers for the people of Nepal through the difficult winter months. To learn more, click here.