This picture of me are from Lobuche Peak with Mount Everest in the background. It is taken the same morning as the avalanche took 16 lives at camp 1 in Mount Everest. It is so strange to think about that here are we on Lobuche Peak, happy because the whole team has succeeded with summiting the Peak. Not far away has there just been an accident that changes the lives for many families who have lost a family member this day.
I have a story I want to tell in todays blog about a young woman that lost her husband in an accident on a Mount Everest Expedition this year. I am not writing about her because I want you who read this to feel sorry for her. I want to tell this story because I think it is an important part of the picture, that we who comes from rich countries to participate on treks and in climbing expeditions should know of. It is not only this year when the avalanche took 16 lives that the staff members dies in connection with treks and expeditions here in Nepal. This happens every year. I have been told that there are in average 4-5 persons who die each year in a Mount Everest season. The woman I met lost her husband when he was on his way back to Kathmandu.
It was a strong experience I had some days ago when I met the woman in the picture here in Kathmandu. She is a single mother to a five year old girl. She became a widow after her husband died in an accident on his way back from an Everest Expedition this year. Her husband was a kitchen helper in our expedition team. For this young women and her 5 year old girl has the world changed dramatically because of this accident. She has lost her husband and she mourn over the loss. She has also lost the family member who is the main provider in the family, and responsible for that they have food on the table. Urmila which is her name has no idea about what the future brings for her and her girl.
She has received some money in compensation from the insurance company to cover her daily expenses for a short while. Besides from that has this small family no future income source. Nepal has not got the same good social security system as we have in Norway. In fact they have a system where you can claim a small amount in compensation which is paid out in a lump sum.
Urmila and her husband moved from a small village in one of the mountain areas in to Kathmandu when they got married. Most of their family is still living in the village. Urmila was a home working housewife when the accident happened something that is very common here in Nepal. She describes the life she was living together with her husband and her little girl as good. Her husband worked in the trekking & expedition business. The money he earned was enough to pay for the small room they are living in and to send their girl to private school. Urmila has no formal training, which limits her opportunity to get a job in a country with around 40 % unemploymentrate.
As the tourist business has developed here in Nepal has the demographic pattern changed. Young people move with their families from the villages to Kathmandu, because it is in Kathmandu most of the jobs in the tourist business are. Another reason why people move from the villages to Kathamandu are that they want their children to have a good education. It is common to send the children to private schools if you can afford it.
I have been told that a woman here in Nepal needs permission from her husband if she wants to take a job position outside the home. Since many of these married women does not work, does they become very dependent on their husbands and their income. As long as their husband has a job do they have a stable income, have food on the table and can provide for their kids education in a private school.
As many of you know was there an avalanche in Mount Everest during the Everest expedition season this year. This avalanche took 16 lives all of them where staff in different expedition teams. The media coverage all over the world was massive in the days after it happened. The Climbing Sherpas went on strike to clame better conditions from the government to prevent an accident like this in the future, and to achieve better compensations for the families that had lost a family member. As a result of this accident was the expedition season called off one week later.
After the accident where there a lot of frustration within the climbing teams when the season was called off. Many of them where angry at the climbing sherpas who did not want to climb. When you get to know the consequences for the families that lose a family member can I understand the climbing sherpas reaction. What I have been asking myself after the expedition is, what can we who participate as clients do to improve the conditions for the staffs families after an accident in the future? If the nepali government is not helping them with support, maybe the climbers could find a way to help support the families with money to school fee, rent and food?
I do not how we can help to improve this situation, but I think it is time that the participants feel their responsibility to support. I know that some of them do.
So what do I think about the expedition and trekking industry here in Nepal after my experience at Mount Everest Basecamp and afterwards?
I think that this industry has been good for Nepal. Many has got good opportunities and risen their living standard dramatically. The climbing sherpas get extra paid for the extra risk they are taking, compared to other occupations here in Nepal. So I do not thing that they should close down the expedition and trekking business. I think it is time to put more focus on the problem which is to improve the financial situation for the families after an accident.
Please comment on this blog if you have any view on the topic.