The refugees, as per the policies of Government of Nepal, are prohibited from engaging in economic activities outside the camps. Unlike the Tibetan refugees in Nepal who have been granted refugee status that allows them to seek employment, Bhutanese refugees are forbidden from working outside the camps.

However, there are various opportunities for employment. Within the camps a number of adult refugees are paid incentive salaries at a fraction of average pay.

Due to the high standard of education, many young Bhutanese find teaching work throughout Nepal, although they hide their refugee status.

Others find work as labourers in industries such as road-building, stone-breaking and agriculture in order to supplement their families’ meagre income.

Due to donor fatigue and subsequent aid budget cuts a large proportion of the young have been compelled

In recent years rations have not included vegetables or clothes.

Many are also forced to work outside the camps in order to fund their further education.

Food and rations

Food rations are distributed every two weeks. Rations are distributed to each household in proportion to the number of members in the family. There is no variation in quantity according to age; a full grown man receives the same amount as a toddler.

Refugees receive a ‘food basket’ containing rice, lentils, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, wheat soya blend and some vegetables. Over recent years the provision of vegetables provided has been gradually reduced forcing people to earn an income to buy food to supplement their rations and to ensure that their diet remains healthy.

Refugees are also provided with non-food items. However, rationing of these basic materials has decreased dramatically in recent years. Clothes have not been distributed for a number of years. The provision of bathing soap also was discontinued as of January 2006. Kerosene, used for cooking and lighting, was suspended at the end of 2005 and replaced by briquettes but this move had a big impact on the refugees. The briquettes burn slowly, produce a foul smoke and cannot be used as lighting fuel, thus preventing children from studying after dark.

Rations were distributed by the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) until January 2006 when LWF took over. A community-based approach is used for the food distribution. Refugees themselves are directly involved in the fortnightly distributions under the supervision of a distribution sub-committee and LWF.


The water system is managed centrally and operated by incentive workers. In all seven camps the water system is centrally controlled and distributed through pipes. The water is pumped from deep wells by diesel engines to overhead tanks where the water is then chlorinated and subsequently distributed through pipes two to three times per day to tap stands located throughout the camps.

Water taps are located through out the camps and a number of huts share a single tap. The water comes on for a few hours twice a day in the morning and afternoon and is transferred from the taps to the huts in an assortment of plastic and metal containers

The approximate quantity of water is within established guidelines, i.e. 20 – 25 litres per person per day.

Psycho-social issues

Depression, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, dropping out of school, domestic and gender-based violence and trafficking in girls have all escalated in the camps. There were 159 cases of sexual and gender-based violence reported to UNHCR in 2005.

Anxiety and depression increase once children reach their final year of education in the camps, a time when they begin to think about how they will support their families.

CARITAS (Nepal) has been documenting ‘vulnerable’ cases, particularly orphaned children who have been left to fend for themselves through suicide or abandonment by their parents. In many cases, the eldest sibling – who has to care for younger ones – feels the most pressure and is, therefore, most susceptible to emotional problems.