COVID Mutual Aid for Dolpopa in Kathmandu, Nepal

COVID 19 Resources

For up to date and accurate information about COVID safety, visit the CDC or WHO websites.

Your contributions will support vulnerable migrant families from Dolpo, especially single mothers and students, to pay rent and/or buy food in Kathmandu, Nepal. Migrant populations in Kathmandu, particularly students and women who depend on low-wage labor or run small restaurants are unevenly affected by the COVID-19+ pandemic. They are also invisible to the state and aid organizations. In order not to market it as a charity and for ethical reasons, we do not want to publicize the names of people. Representative stories include: 1) a woman who traveled to Kathmandu for medical treatment, ran out of money to support her return travel, and is temporarily sheltered in a monastery; 2) a woman who migrated to Kathmandu because of domestic violence, raises a son, and is struggling to pay rent and buy food; and 3) several women who run little restaurants that remain closed due to the pandemic and are struggling to pay rent and keep their businesses. 

Based on a preliminary assessment by our friends on the ground, we have about 50 Dolpopa families and individuals who are severely affected by the surging pandemic. We hope to collect enough funds to support them to pay rent and/or buy food for 1-3 months. We will directly distribute cash and trust our recipients regarding its best use. Our small team of volunteers will ensure accountability and the most efficient transfer of money.

Given our shared implication in the current crisis, we are working on the basis of a philosophy of mutual aid, not charity. We recognize that the precarity of the people we aim to support is directly linked to broader structures in which we are all implicated. These include the lack of state social safety net in Nepal, socio-linguistic barriers to accessing information and healthcare services, patriarchy and intersecting social discriminations, historical marginalization of Dolpopa by the Nepali state (e.g. lack of proper schools and adequate healthcare services that force people to migrate in the first place), as well as geopolitical rivalries and nationalist pandemic policies of countries such as the United States. It is in these terms that we ask you to join us in this initiative to help meet each other’s needs. 

ནད་ཡམས་ཀྱིས་འཛམ་གླིང་ཁྱོན་ལ་དངོས་ཤུགས་གང་རུང་ནས་འགྱུར་བ་ཐེབས་དང་ཐེབས་བཞིན་པའི་སྐབས་སུ་ང་ཚོས་འདིར་ཀུན་ཕན་རོགས་དངུལ་བསྡུ་བའི་ལས་སྟེགས་ཤིག་གཉེར་ནས་སྦྱིན་པ་གཏོང་བར་མོས་པ་ཡོད་མཁན་དག་ལ་བརྡ་སྤྲོད་བཞིན་པའོ།། ཁྱེད་ཀྱི་རོགས་དངུལ་གྱིས་བལ་ཡུལ་རྒྱལ་ས་རུ་བཞུགས་པའི་དོལ་པོ་བ་སྟེ་སློབ་མ་དང་བུད་མེད་གཙོ་བའི་ནད་ཡམས་ཀྱིས་ལས་ཀར་བར་ཆད་སྣ་མིན་དང་འཐུས་ཤོར་འདྲ་མིན་བཟོས་ཡོད་པའི་མི་དག་ལ་འཚོ་བའི་ཁ་གསབ་བྱེད་རྩིས་ཡིན། དམིགས་བསལ་གྱིས་ཟླ་བ་གཅིག་ནས་གསུམ་རིང་གི་ཁོ་ཚོའི་ཟ་མ་དང་ཁང་གླའི་འགྲོ་གྲོན་ལ་རོགས་རམ་བྱེད་འཆར་ཡོད། ང་ཚོས་རྒྱུས་ལོན་བྱས་པའི་གནས་ཚུལ་ལྟར་ན་བལ་ཡུལ་རྒྱལ་ས་རུ་དོལ་པོའི་བུད་མེད་ཁ་ཤས་ཀྱིས་ཟ་ཁང་སོགས་ཁེ་ལས་གཉེར་བཞིན་ཡོད་ལ་དེར་ནད་ཡམས་ཀྱིས་ཤུགས་རྐྱེན་ཐེབས་ནས་ཉིན་རྒྱུན་བཞིན་ལས་གཉེར་བྱེད་མ་ཐུབ་པས་ཁོ་ཚོའི་དཔལ་འབྱོར་དང་ཉིན་རྒྱུན་གྱི་འཚོ་གནས་ལ་དཀའ་ངལ་མང་པོ་བཟོས། ས་གནས་ཀྱི་ལས་མི་དག་གིས་རྒྱུས་ལོན་བྱས་པ་ལྟར་ན་ཉུང་མཐའ་ཡང་ཁྱིམ་ཚང་བདུན་བཅུ་ལྷག་ལ་གོང་སྨྲས་བཞིན་ཤུགས་རྐྱེན་ཐེབས་འདུག་པས་འཚོ་བའི་འགྲོ་གྲོན་ལ་རོགས་རམ་བྱེད་པའི་འཆར་གཞི་ཡོད། ས་གནས་ཀྱི་དང་བླངས་ལས་མི་དག་ལ་བློ་གཏོད་བྱས་ཆོག་ལ་ཁོ་ཚོས་ལས་ཀར་འཐུས་ཤོར་མེད་པའི་སྒང་ནས་ཁྱེད་ཀྱི་རོགས་དངུལ་གོང་དུ་གླེང་བའི་ཁྱིམ་ཚང་དག་ལ་སྤྲོད་ངེས་ཡིན།

Read on for context, a few notes about the structural nature of the crisis, and an explanation of the importance of mutual aid:

The tragic wave of COVID-19 cases in India has surged over the border into Nepal. The 1,770km land border remains open, and with few exceptions, there is limited-to-no testing for the thousands of people flooding home to Nepal from India, let alone for the general public. The federal government has abdicated responsibility for decision-making to lower levels of government, and most communities have not established quarantine facilities for returners. Community spread of the deadly variants ravaging India is therefore widespread in Nepal. Hospitals are understaffed, underequipped, and turning away patients. Districts are closing down. Nepal’s pandemic rhythms have generally tracked about a month behind India’s. The situation is getting worse. 

On 19 April, the Kathmandu Valley locked down. As was the case during the previous wave, this is devastating for people who depend on a daily wage for food and to make rent and who live in close quarters in this densely packed city. Necessary though it is to break the chain, the lockdown adds another layer to the suffering caused by the virus. This crisis affects everyone, but it does so in unique ways. Especially hard-hit by the combined effects of pandemic and lockdown are communities in Kathmandu that already face structural barriers.

Dolpopa with low or no income in Kathmandu face significant linguistic and cultural barriers to access government services in the best of times, and this precarity is exacerbated in every way by the surging pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Many Dolpopa are migrants to the city (often on a seasonal basis) from a region of Nepal with extremely limited healthcare and educational opportunities. Most speak Nepali as a second language, and the factors that drive migration make surviving a lockdown even more difficult. These include educational migration which fragments families and is accompanied by expensive school fees; medical problems in Dolpo that not infrequently force people to charter helicopters to Kathmandu that cost thousands of dollars (lakhs of rupees); and social discrimination within Dolpo that leads people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and so-called lower caste to leave Dolpo. Vaccinations of any kind are rarely available in Dolpo, and in a country struggling to vaccinate its healthcare workers, coronavirus vaccines are out of the picture for Dolpopa in Dolpo and in Kathmandu. This reality points to the general lack of state-sponsored social safety nets in Nepal and the corresponding importance of mutual aid and collective care.

The lack of safety nets, like the current surging pandemic, are not natural problems of an unfortunately poor country. Both have their roots in specific histories and larger political economies. Structural adjustments leveraged on Nepal by international lenders (including the US) have precluded the construction of robust publicly funded social programs (Shrestha 2010). These kinds of economic policies, and the larger political economic strategies in which they figure, have disproportionately profited the West and are responsible for the long-term socio-environmental changes in which a viral pandemic like the present one becomes not only possible but probable (Davis 2020). Furthermore, the pandemic policies of countries like the US have directly contributed to the current surge in South Asia. Vaccine nationalism, patent politics, and geopolitical rivalries created these conditions where coronavirus runs rampant, proliferating variants and suffering through populations that are systematically made sacrificial.

Among the lessons from the first wave, civil society organizations and mutual aid groups will be crucial to keep people fed and housed in the coming weeks. It is with this in mind that we are fundraising to support families whose access to food and housing is threatened by the lockdown. In addition to the Dolpopa diaspora, folks in the West are connected to Dolpopa more or less directly (politically, economically, and socially), and these relations implicate all of us uniquely in the present catastrophe. Mutual aid is a philosophy and a practice for cultivating right relations. Mutual aid is “cooperation for the sake of the common good.” It’s bringing people together to meet each other’s needs. It’s recognizing that our survival is dependent on one another. Dolpopa are not exceptional, but neither do we want to generalize suffering. We recognize that many people are in need due to the pandemic, but the situation that the particular group of Dolpopa we are targeting face is unique. A mutual aid group composed of Dolpopa is important in addressing the specificity of our challenges. We are reaching out to assist people through this initiative in hopes that we will be able to provide a small amount of support for individuals and families that will meaningfully contribute to our mutual well-being.


Davis, Mike. 2020. “C’est La Lutte Finale.” Progressive International.

For news about the pandemic in Nepal

More places to help out in Nepal

COVID-19 Hotline and Equipment for Tibetans

Covid-19 Mutual Aid For a Dalit Family

Help Nepal During COVID-19 Surge

Help Tashi Help Nepal - COVID-19 Relief Effort

For more about mutual aid

Toolkit put together by AOC -

Article by Dean Spade -

Photo: Nyima Dorjee

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