Action Against Hunger in Nepal

Nepal earthquakes: six months on

Thanks to you, we continue to help families rebuild their lives. Check out @IndyonSunday, featuring our programmes in the country six months on.

By Christine Kahmann

Oct 25 2015


In the Independent on Sunday: Six months on from the earthquakes that devastated Nepal, its people's famed resilience is being tested once again, with 60,000 in camps unsuitable for the coming winter and others living amid rubble while political infighting delays reconstruction (by Karen Attwood). Read more in the @IndyonSunday


On Saturday 25 April a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 people and injuring many more. Just two weeks later, on 12 May, a second earthquake hit the country, destroying more homes and causing further physical and emotional trauma for children and their families. Our teams, who were already present in Nepal to address deadly child malnutrition, immediately launched an emergency response. Six months on, we remain committed to helping families rebuild their lives and ease their trauma. 

Children remain in need as winter approaches 

Samshana Koju, 26 (left) with her mother Krishna and her 10 month old twins Ramanika and Samanika Koju leaving the Siddhi Memorial Hospital in Bhaktapur. Samshana has received counselling and support from Action Against Hunger. Credit: i-Images/Andrew Parsons for Action Against Hunger.

 

The headlines may have stopped, but families in Nepal are still struggling to rebuild their lives.

Whilst many families have returned to their villages, nearly 60,000 people are still living under tarpaulins and in makeshift tents in 120 displacement sites - eighty-five percent of shelter in these sites are not suitable for the cold winter months ahead. In addition, the country has been hit with fuel shortages which have put a stranglehold on its economy and are hampering aid efforts in the crucial time before the winter. With transportation almost shut down, hospitals are running out of supplies, social services are curtailed and families are unable to return home before their towns will be cut off by snow. 

And whilst donors responded generously to Nepal's request for international assistance at the International Conference on Nepal's Reconstruction in June, the delayed formation of the new National Reconstruction Authority, a new state body to lead reconstruction efforts, has prevented families from rebuilding their homes ahead of the winter season.

Despite these enormous challenges Nepal is on the road to recovery.

Our response

Providing access to food and restoring incomes 

A market stall vendor talks to an Action Against Hunger staff member in Kathmandu. The country is slowly rebuilding six months after the first earthquake. Credit: i-Images/Andrew Parsons for Action Against Hunger.

Hundreds of thousands of people who depend on agriculture to make a living lost the main source of their livelihoods during the devastating earthquakes and their aftershocks. Without an income from crop cultivation and animal farming, people’s ability to rebuild their lives is hampered. More than 530,000 people in the 11 districts affected by the earthquakes still do not know where their next meal will come from.

Our teams have distributed 1,942 shelter kits to vulnerable people impacted by the earthquake as well as 2,165 cooking kits. We also handed out grain bags to 527 farming households, enabling them to salvage remaining food supplies and store rice, maize and other types of crops. With granaries and warehouses that used to store these crops destroyed by the earthquakes, the bags will help farmers to bounce back when they are resuming their farming activities.

We have also provided cash grants to over 2,400 households in exchange for community work such as debris cleaning. The grants allow families to reclaim their independence with dignity and kick-start the physical and psychological process of rebuilding their lives. A recent programme evaluation found that families spent half of the income they earned from these activities on food, 15 per cent on repairing their houses and 8 per cent on repaying loans. 

Over the next few months we plan to expand our cash-for-work programmes to an additional 2,600 families. We will also enable 800 families to better cope with futures crises by reducing their impact on livestock and agriculture. 

Helping ease the psychological trauma

Children play in the nursery at Bode camp where Action Against Hunger is providing families with psycho-social support. Credit: i-Images/Andrew Parsons for Action Against Hunger.

 

The devastating earthquakes and their aftershocks have left many mental scars which are much more invisible than the physical destruction. The earthquakes have provoked widespread fear and uncertainty about what the future will bring. Many people are still traumatised as they struggle to maintain decent living conditions and figure out where to live once the temporary camps have been dismantled.

That’s why we’re training health staff dealing with the earthquake-affected in psychological and social care, so that they can deal with their own trauma and help other families cope better with the disaster’s impact. We’re also providing psychological support directly to children and families in Kathmandu Valley and the districts of Nuwahot and Rasuwa, where we’re also addressing life-threatening malnutrition in young children.

We’ve set up quiet places for mothers and young children to facilitate breastfeeding and rest, and provide children with a safe space to play. We’re  providing psycho-social counselling services for parents to cope with the trauma they’ve experienced.

Since April, we have provided psycho-social support to nearly 5,800 people and trained more than 1,000 medical staff, teachers and aid workers in psycho-social care. Over the next few weeks, we plan to expand our programmes to reach more villages in Nuwakot and Rasuwa. You can watch a video featuring our psycho-social programmes by clicking here

Providing water, sanitation and hygiene 

Sunita, 9 years-old, fills bottles of clean water at Chautara temporary camp, in Sindhupalchok, set on the old football field of the city to host all these families and children like her who had fled from the rest of their destroyed villages and houses after the earthquake.Credit: D.Burgui for Action Against Hunger.

The earthquakes destroyed water networks and pipelines, and contaminated water supplies. Within the first few months of the disaster, restoring access to clean water by repairing water networks and installing water distribution systems therefore was our key focus. So far, we’ve reached more than 41,600 people with water, sanitation and hygiene services including building latrines and distributing hygiene kits.  

But with many families not knowing if they’ll be able to return to their villages and towns before the winter, providing access to clean drinking water and sanitation in displacement camps in Nuwakot and Rasuwa remains a key priority for Action Against Hunger. 

 

What’s next ?

Damay Singh Tamang, 46, run's a carpet weaving business in Bode camp where Action Against Hunger is providing counselling. Photographed with part of the family of 40 from the Tamang family.Credit: i-Images/Andrew Parsons for Action Against Hunger.

 

Thousands of people living in quake-hit mountain villages and displacement camps will require urgent help as winter approaches. We continue to scale up our programmes to help people throughout the cold winter. We also continue providing malnourished children with urgent treatment and follow-up care, and to work with the Nepalese health authorities to integrate the Community-based Treatment of Malnutrition approach into its health services. This means children can receive the care they so urgently require within their community before their condition becomes critical.

 

 

Copyright: i-Images/Andrew Parsons for Action Against Hunger

Lead image: A girl plays with her kite in the Upper Thali camp after her family's home was completely destroyed in the earthquake 6 months ago.

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