It has to be said the one certain advantage that emigration offers is the advantage of looking at the world and those in it, from a different perspective. Of course we all realise that there’s a bit bad world outside of Cork and even Ireland but so many incidents happened every year across the world and in the past they would have gone largely unnoticed by me. Naturally I’d tut at the paper when I read of disaster and misfortune in other parts of the world, but without having a face with which to associate the tragedy, it would fade into my memory bank, perhaps soon to be replaced by another tragedy.
Last Saturday my new tragedy was the earthquake in Nepal. I watched coverage on the TV, I shook my head at the rapidly increasing death toll and prayed that the Irish people missing would be found safe and sound and would be sent home safely. For some reason the plight of masses does not strike me hard until I see the face of one, and then I can feel their pain. None of us at home being Nepalese, Saturday and Sunday night I slept with ease, but I went to work on Monday and met my friend and co-worker, it was then I found out that she was from Nepal and then I began to feel the plight of the Nepalese people hit by the Himalayan earthquake.
She spent days calling the Nepalese embassy looking for news of her parents, siblings and family. While the rest of the office logged on to Sky News to read the death toll number, she fretted for the safety of her parents and prayed that they would survive. Fortunately she received word that they were alive, but their home had been destroyed. They were without water and shelter and they were relying on relief supplies for food. I decided to refrain from mentioning my problems that week, the a/s units needed servicing, I needed a filling, but the dentist was on holidays and I wouldn’t see my parents until summer, they were going to Tenerife instead.
The lives of c. 5,000 people have been lost in Nepal in the last week and thousand more injured. Villages and towns are wrecked beyond recognition, electricity and water supply had been damaged beyond repair in many areas, children are left orphans, parents are left childless, whole communities wiped out and I am certainly embarrassed to admit that it takes this close proximity to a victim of a natural disaster in order for it to resonate fully with me but will suffice to say that at least it is on the radar now, for sure if I was in Ireland, I would have been wrapped up in the aftermath of the Dunnes strike or the ongoing water charges disaster and Nepal would have seemed a million miles away.
Here in Qatar, there are several group fundraising for Nepal and why wouldn’t they, after all there are over 400,000 Nepalese workers here in Qatar building the dream for the Qatari’s who are spending about Eu.100bn on the 2022 World Cup infrastructure .
However reports have shown that every second day a Nepalese worker dies on building sites in Qatar, heart attacks, exhaustion, heart failure are among the common causes of death and the remaining workers continue to survive in their ‘modern-day slavery hell’ here in Doha. This figure doubles during the summer months where the death toll rises to one death per day. Workers in Qatar are permitted to stop work once the temperature hits 50°c but guess what, the temperature is never officially reported above 49 degrees, leaving these workers in a living hell enduring 12-hour days in sweltering conditions and living in squalor, overcrowded accommodation with poor facilities.
The International Trade Union Confederation has warned that up to 4,000 workers may die before a ball is kicked in 2022, so for these migrant workers who have made the journey from Nepal to the oasis of Qatar in the hope of securing good employment to support their families back home in Kathmandu or Pokhara, is it really such a gift horse or is Qatar 2022 another natural disaster for Nepal.