By Emma Fingler, MAGG Graduate (2018)
Before I knew it, October had arrived in Kathmandu. With the slowly fading monsoon season, the city was alight with the festival season, bringing with it a variety of new experiences to discover. However, with the end of the monsoon season comes an evening chill in the air that reaches through to the bones. Kathmandu is quite the anomaly, with temperatures reaching the mid-twenties during the day before dropping down to single digits at night. And even with seemingly endless festivals and changing seasons, the UNRCO has been plenty busy in the past month!
One of the first tasks of the month was to hire a team of Field Liaison Officers (FLOs), with which I assisted. The FLOs were tasked with reporting on the humanitarian and recovery situation in the worst flood affected areas, Province 2 and 5 in the southern region of Nepal, known as the Terai. My role has been to assist with the bi-weekly reports that are presented in the format of a Situation Report. Our goal is that these reports will inform the various actors of the humanitarian community of any updates that take place with respect to flood relief, recovery and reconstruction. Ultimately, our office strives to produce a greater understanding of the aftermath of the flood, and the steps being taken by the variety of actors that continue to assist the affected populations.
As a part of my work with the project, I was also given the opportunity to go on a field visit to Province 2. With two other members of the UNRCO, I attended meetings with various UN agencies, NGOs and government officials in the region, and introduced our FLOs to local partners. I experienced new Nepali cities, including Janakpur, Gaur, Rajbiraj, and Biratnagar. Additionally, I was able to visit a village outside of Gaur to complete some work with the Common Feedback Project (you can read more about the project here). The village, which was deeply affected by the recent flood, was by far the poorest place I have witnessed in person. The woman I interviewed discussed the impacts of discrimination, including political interference, on aid distribution following the flood. From that interview, I produced a short narrative of her experience that accompanied our October 2017 report (access to the full report is available here). It was one of the most surreal moments of my time here thus far, being able to capture her story when it might not have been told otherwise.
A second project that has taken off over the past month is the report I am working on to capture the progress of the Grand Bargain commitments. I conducted my first interviews, and have lined up seven more. These interviews are a key part of the report, which will demonstrate what work has been conducted by members of the Humanitarian Country Team since the Grand Bargain was launched. I am looking forward to the rest of the interviews and am excited to see what information I will be able to gather.
Outside of the office, the city has been in full swing with the recent Hindu festival Tihar, also known as Diwali or the festival of lights. In the days leading up to the festival, buildings across the city were adorned with strings of lights creating a fun and festive atmosphere. A highlight of the month was creating a Rangoli (an auspicious pattern made of coloured sand to bring good luck) with friends and spending the holiday eating at a Newari restaurant before venturing into the old quarter to observe all the beautiful lights.
I have also made a promise to myself to be more of a tourist while I am here! I have yet to visit some of the major attractions of Kathmandu, so I think November is the perfect month to do so. I’m looking forward to continuing my work in the office and to whatever new comes my way!