April 25, 2016
By Simon Chambers
One year ago today, Kathmandu and the surrounding region in Nepal was devastated by an earthquake that killed over 8000 people, destroyed hundreds of thousands of houses, roads, infrastructure, and more. The world responded, and Canadian Anglicans raised over $585,000 for relief work in the aftermath of this quake and a second one on May 12.
In the year since the quake, PWRDF has been part of the ACT Alliance response, helping thousands of families to get through the first weeks and to get back on their feet over the following months.
The First Three Months
The first days after a disaster are a frenzy of trying to get food, water, medicine, and shelter to the places that are affected. Relief workers talk to the communities about what the needs are beyond the basics in order to begin planning rehabilitation work and ensuring that the people in the most need are receiving help as quickly as possible.
During this time, PWRDF helped to provide food, tents and tarps for shelter, hygiene supplies, blankets, cooking supplies, clothes and more necessities to thousands of people in the Kathmandu valley and in remote communities in the mountains. Some could only be accessed by helicopter as the roads were destroyed in the quake.
The Next Nine Months
After the first few weeks, the focus of relief efforts began to shift from the immediate, day-to-day needs to rebuilding communities. This work involved four components: water and hygiene, housing, livelihoods, and psychosocial support.
WASH is an acronym meaning water, sanitation and hygiene, and is one of the most important parts of relief and reconstruction work. Communities need access to safe, potable water, water to grow crops, to cook, and to clean themselves. Without proper hygiene and sanitation, the spread of diseases like cholera are common in temporary camps after a disaster. PWRDF support helped to rehabilitate or install clean water points in villages, including supplying a stall to provide privacy for women who come to bathe at the tap.
Tents and tarps provide shelter for the immediate term, but temporary shelters (designed to last 2-3 years) were needed as soon as possible. Sheets of corrugated iron, nails, and other supplies were given to vulnerable people to help them build shelters, allowing them to have a home for the next few years as work continues to build permanent, disaster-resistant housing.
People lost not just their homes, but the tools of their trade, the crops they had planted, and other necessary things for making money to support their families. PWRDF, through ACT, worked with local communities to provide money to allow people to buy the tools, seed, and livestock they needed to restart their businesses and farms. Providing cash in this way also stimulated the local economy, helping even more people in the communities to get back on their feet.
Finally, psychosocial support helps people to cope with the loss, the fear, the anger, the sadness they have experienced in the earthquake and its aftermath. Workshops and counselling help people to recover much more quickly from trauma. In the words of Bimala Dhakal, from Khamaray Village, “I would like to offer a lot of thanks to the Rural Women Creative Forum and Lutheran World Federation Nepal for helping us a lot, especially to recover from crisis by gathering women from different neighborhoods together and providing us with psychosocial care when our minds were not working properly.”
The next installment of our Nepal – 1 year later series will share more information about PWRDF’s work in the next year or two as the work of reconstruction continues.