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Border Blocks in Nepal Could Trigger Humanitarian Crisis

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Nepal’s two major earthquakes earlier this year shattered the lives of millions of people.

Now nationwide fuel shortages, caused by more than two months of blockades along the border with India, mean life for people in Nepal is even more precarious.

“It feels like it’s getting serious now,” says Simon Hall, a BMS World Mission worker in Kathmandu, Nepal. “The Nepal Oil Corporation has said to stop queuing – there’s nothing left to give. Loads of schools are closed because parents can’t get their kids there.

“It’s not just fuel for transport – it’s fuel for generators too,” Hall said. “If hospitals can’t run generators, things get bad.”

Taxi drivers in Kathmandu have been lining up for up to five days for the chance to refuel their vehicles to continue earning a living and feeding their families.

People are cramming into dangerously overcrowded buses to get around. One such bus, which had many people riding on the roof because of the lack of transport available, skidded off a road last week killing 30 people and injuring many more.

The lack of fuel is also obstructing efforts to reach rural survivors of the earthquakes with the supplies they need.

In addition to a lack of fuel, Nepal is also now reportedly running out of medicine; the price of basic necessities has soared.

Nepal is suffering from its worst ever economic disaster, according to The Guardian. The blockade has cost the country more than $1 billion.

“There’s no end to it,” says Alan Barker, a BMS worker in Surkhet, in the Mid-Western region of Nepal. “India is blaming the situation on Nepal; Nepal is blaming it on India. It’s very complicated, and three months down the line nothing seems to have been done about it.

“Nepal is used to moving from one crisis to another. There’s not a great hue and cry; there’s not great protest like in other countries,” Barker said. “People just try to get by, building little wood stoves outside because there is no gas to cook with. The blockade is affecting the whole country.”

The protests began after the government released its new constitution. There are mixed reports as to who is responsible for the blockade.

Some say it is the result of groups opposed to the constitution in the Madhesh region (the southern region of Nepal, which borders India).

It is reported that those responsible for the blockade are unhappy with the constitution and are demanding greater representation in parliament and a redrawing of the provincial boundaries.

Many in Nepal, however, say the blockades are the fault of India’s government.

“The general consensus here is that this is the fault of India,” Hall says. “If you were to speak to anyone in Kathmandu, that would be their opinion.”

There are no signs of the border crossings opening up soon. Even if they do, it will take a long time for things to begin running smoothly again in Nepal.

Sarah Stone is a writer for BMS World Mission. A version of this news article first appeared on the BMS World Mission website. It is used with permission. You can follow Stone on Twitter @Sarah_Stone and BMS @BMSWorldMission.