Help Families Survive COVID Lockdown in Nepal

COVID 19 Resources

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"Families here are in greater danger of starving to death than dying of Coronavirus."  That was the report Girls Empowered by Travel board member Pabitra Majhi sent back from her home district of Sarlahi, Nepal.

UPDATE: As the situation has unfolded we have adapted our response to fit emerging needs. We will continue to share updates on this page and strive to be as transparent as possible as new needs, challenges, and solutions evolve every day.


When Nepal locked down on March 24th day-wage earners and their families were put at high risk of death from malnutrition and starvation almost immediately. Many Nepali workers are forced to cross the border to India — or venture much further to Malaysia, Dubai, and the Gulf States — to find work. They often work day-wage jobs at brick factories, construction sites and doing carpentry — sometimes earning less than $1 USD per day. It's barely enough to buy food for the next day, and almost never enough to build up savings. 

Pregnant women, new mothers, and their children are at particular risk for malnutrition, starvation, and reduced access to healthcare during to the lockdown. UNICEF  estimates, "As many as 4000 children may die in Nepal over the next six months due to the lockdown enforced to curb the spread of coronavirus."

"The sudden lockdown of the country meant that they had no time to prepare. Their daily food consumption is always limited by their daily income, and when the lockdown started they had no money to buy food for the next day. "


Your support has already started to make a difference.
Emergency funding raised earlier this month has already made an enormous difference, providing relief packages of rice, lentils, oil, and salt to hundreds of families, and provide supplemental nutrition for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Yet the lockdown continues. Our work must continue to keep these families safe from starvation until they can safely return to work.

Our goal is to feed families in four communities where we have prior initiatives: Sarlahi, Changunarayan, Gre, and Gargari. Where possible we are working with the municipality to prioritize families with vulnerable women: pregnant or new mothers, single mothers, or elderly women.

As the risk of food shortages increase our team is working tirelessly to secure nutritious rations at a reasonable price. On average: 

$10 will feed a family for a week.
$20 will provide supplemental nutrition to a pregnant woman or nursing mother and child for a month.
$40 will feed a family for a month.
$80 will feed a family for two months.
$1,000 will feed 25 families for a month!

How many lives could you affect? Imagine the relief of knowing your children will eat tonight, because someone on the other side of the world cared.

Our motto is ‘Travel Can Make a Difference’, but right now the opposite — staying at home — can make a difference. However we need to make sure that it is safe and possible for the most vulnerable of us to stay at home.  We couldn't sit idle and let the needy people of our community to just starve to death.

The recent government mandate that all aid must be coordinated through the local municipalities made our NGO particularly well-poised to make a difference.  Through our programs we have already established trust with locals, built relationships with municipalities and local Female Community Health Volunteers, and grown a devoted volunteer network in communities that are home to some of the most marginalized women and their families. These municipalities have welcomed our support and we are working with them to identify families in the most need.

While the COVID-19 coronavirus does not discriminate, the impact of such a global pandemic hits under-developed countries like Nepal the hardest. These are just a few reasons why:
• High risk for food shortages – Nepal depends on import of rice and other staples to feed its citizens. With the majority of land owned by the elite, many rural families can't even grow enough food to sustain themselves. Food shortages are a very real threat in the coming months.
• Monsoon season compounds the risk – Summer monsoons bring heavy rains every year in June – August. Frequently flooding often washed out roads and bridges, threatening the distribution of food and other essential goods. This will make food shortages all the more threatening in rural areas.
• A banner year for tourism, wasted - An extensive "Nepal 2020" campaign aimed to bring 1 million visitors to Nepal this year. Millions of families depend on income from the tourism sector, and no doubt thousands of small businesses had invested to meet the expected demand.
• Unemployment exacerbated by the pandemic - With 40% unemployment at home, millions of Nepalis live hand to mouth with day-wage jobs that depend on a functioning daily economy. Another 500,000+ Nepalis seek work abroad each year, accounting for 31% of the GDP. The pandemic forced many of these workers to return home, while leaving others stranded abroad without work as factories and economies ground to a halt.
Existing burden of poverty and lack of resources -  Health infrastructure and access to healthcare is already lacking in much of the country. 25% of Nepalis live below the poverty line. After the 2015 earthquake, millions more become homeless or displaced, with these effects still lingering. Even once a vaccine is developed, it is unlikely the funds will be available to secure wide-spread vaccination.


It's a dire situation. Overwhelming, even. But not hopeless.

There is hope in Pabitra — who is used to taking on overwhelming challenges. Like leading our adult literacy group for marginalized women in Sarlahi. Today it has 60 students, who call themselves 'Saahasi', which means, "The Brave Women". 

There is hope in our young 'Hitaishi' alumni. Five years ago a group of 10 girls from Sarlahi participated in our 'Hitaishi' cultural exchange program, focused on breaking cultural and caste barriers and building leadership skills and confidence. Now, these girls are eager to put these skills to good use volunteering to distribute supplies.

And there is hope in you. A stranger, a million miles away from these remote villages, who can give just a little and make a huge impact.
  • Jerry Clark 
    • $256 
    • 11 mos
  • Uyen Tran 
    • $35 
    • 12 mos
  • Zosie Calame 
    • $200 
    • 12 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
    • 12 mos
  • Richard Weiner 
    • $25 
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Fundraising team: Girls Empowered by Travel - Nepal (2)

Katherine Liljegren 
Troutdale, OR
Elena Zubareva 
Team member
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