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At the edge of the world charity is slipping away - EXCLUSIVE from Nepal


It is crunch time for international charities as the recession spreads:  families are looking after number one and businesses and Governments are concentrating on those closer to home.

Brits are dropping their direct debits like hot potatoes and to make matters worse, charities are finding the pound just doesn't stretch as far as it used to.

But the importance of international aid is spelt out in Nepal – where I have spent the last two days.

This is a country where just 25 per cent of people have access to a toilet; and 60 babies under 10 months die every day.

A small amount of money makes a huge difference here, where many people live on just 50p a day.

I've been speaking to health workers from the Department for International Development and other charities  in the capital city, Kathmandu, and a remote hilltop town called Baglung – and us Brits have a lot to be proud of.

The UK Government is propping up Nepal's health service, saving thousands of lives a year.

But our 10 year commitment comes up for renewal next year: when Britain will be engulfed in recession and experts forecast unemployment will have hit a whopping 3.3 million people.

Nepal is on the edge of crisis, and if the British aid is withdrawn the vast healthcare improvements could crumble to dust.

Violent militia groups have taken over huge swathes of the south, and the flimsy Government is dangerously close to collapse.

In the last month one female investigative journalist was murdered in her own home for reporting on the rebel leaders, and a leading editor of a Nepali newspaper was savagely beaten.

In political turmoil it is always the most vulnerable that suffer – and sadly this often means women.

But the country is a vibrant muddle that is full of people fighting for its future.

Nepal's famous Gurkas have fought shoulder to shoulder with the British army for years.

And I have met many equally brave citizens, working in hospitals or women's groups, who are desperate to save Nepal's fragile infrastructure from collapsing.

The UK gives 56 million pounds a year in aid to Nepal – a fraction of the billions sunk into failed bank RBS, formally run by  cowboy Sir Fred "The Shred" Goodwin.

Gordon Brown has pledged to keep funding UK investment in International Development – but our international spending is in danger of slipping off the radar.



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