Everest region in the corona crisis: “Feeling like 40 years ago”

The village of Thame in the Khumbu region

Everest legend Apa Sherpa worries about the people in his home village Thame during the corona crisis. “If the fall season is canceled and they run out of little saving that they have, I am not sure what will happen,” writes the 60-year-old, who reached the summit of Mount Everest a total of 21 times by the end of his career in 2011. “The only source of income for most people in the region is tourism, so if no tourists come, things might turn out bad. I hope that is not the case.” 

Apa Sherpa (in 2013)

Apa lives with his family in Salt Lake City in the USA. With his foundation he supports the people in the Everest region, also in Thame, where he recently had funds distributed to ensure basic supplies. Many Climbing Sherpas, who earn their money on the highest mountain on earth, traditionally come from this village. Among them is the current Everest record holder Kami Rita Sherpa, who has scaled the summit 24 times so far. “The situation in Thame so far is good,” says Apa Sherpa. The emphasis is on so far, because the corona crisis is still going on.

Food aid for the poorest has begun

Mingma Norbu Sherpa, CEO of the Himalayan Trust in Nepal, is also worried about next fall season. The aid organization was founded 60 years ago by Sir Edmund Hillary, who made the first ascent of Everest with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The organization has financed numerous schools, hospitals and other infrastructure projects in the Khumbu region (see video below). By the way, the German section of the Himalayan Trust celebrates its 30th birthday in 2020.

Mingma Norbu, how is the mood among the people in the Khumbu region? 

People are not obviously happy. They feel that they are going back to the situation of 40 years ago. That means they have to cultivate their barren land and grow more food. 

What’s about the people in the remote villages? Are they already suffering from hunger? 

The majority of Khumbu people have the habit of storing food supplies for a couple of months. People have purchased rations for the tourist season and the lockdown started just at the beginning of the season. So they are not suffering from hunger. They will be good for at least six months. However, the poorest of the poor in the region may need ration support. Some of the charity organisations like Kopan Monastery have already started distributing rice, lentil and salt to the poorest of the poor. 

Do the people in the Khumbu help each other? 

Yes, the middle class people and upper class people are helping the poor ones. 

What do the porters, Sherpas, lodge and shop owners do who have currently no jobs or guests?

Mingma Norbu Sherpa with the German First Lady, Elke Büdenbender, the wife of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Those who have agriculture fields and farms, they work in their properties. Those who do not have farms, they are just sitting at home. 

What happens if the autumn season is also cancelled or only very few tourists come?

If there are no tourists in the autumn season, people will suffer from hard cash. Many of them may run into problems of food shortages as well. This will affect educating children in private schools and many other economic and social activities. 

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