Rural communities in Nepal receive aid

LWF staff offer blankets to earthquake survivors in Lalitpur district. Photo: LWF/C. Kästner
LWF staff offer blankets to earthquake survivors in Lalitpur district. Photo: LWF/C. Kästner

Existing LWF development work helps people cope with disaster 

(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has been reaching out to rural communities in Lalitpur district with distributions of blankets, tarpaulins and food. The LWF has been working with those communities for eight years and is now standing with them as they are among those most affected by the earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April, 2015.

“It was noon, I was in the kitchen,” Maili Pakhrin says, recalling the event. “Suddenly the kitchen started sinking. I was petrified. I didn’t know what it was. Then I started running. When I came down the stairs, I saw the houses shaking from side to side. I heard the kitchen collapse, and saw how every house in this street broke down.”

Utter devastation

Maili’s village, Dhusel, is located on a precipice in the mountains that surround Kathmandu valley. The only way of getting to her home and transporting goods there is by using the narrow dirt roads on the steep mountain side. On clear days, you can get a good view of Dhusel village as you travel the dirt road up the mountain. Currently it’s a view of utter devastation. Piles of red bricks and wooden structures are all that are left of the dainty blue houses that formerly constituted the village. Not a single house is undamaged. Out of the 338 houses that were there, 300 have collapsed entirely. Four people have died in the earthquake, as have many animals – the wealth and livelihood of people.

Toy cars, picture frames and household items stick up from the debris, from which villagers are digging to salvage their belongings. “Everything I had was in this house,” Maili says. “Even most of my food is buried here. Neighbors helped me dig out some of my clothes, but they are torn.” Maili now stays with her brother’s family in a shelter made of plastic sheets from a greenhouse.

Having known the community for years, the LWF was one of the first organisations to provide life-saving aid to those affected. Together with ACT Alliance partners, the LWF has distributed 400 blankets to the people here, who have lost their homes. Now the LWF is discussing with the community how to best provide medium-term shelter. “Instead of just tarpaulins, we thought of giving people tin sheets,” LWF Regional Project Coordinator Nibha Shresta says. “When the monsoon starts in a few weeks, tarpaulins are not enough. With tin sheets they can build provisional houses until their housing is re-built.”

The community however is divided on the question. Some want to focus on re-building, hoping they will have proper housing before the monsoon again. Re-building a village reduced to bricks within weeks seems unlikely, though. “Everything is destroyed,” Shresta says with a tone of desperation in her voice. “How will the people find the money to rebuild an entire village?”

Rush of solidarity

“The government should pass a law that all houses have to be earthquake-proof,” Rardlika Sanggel Mahat states. She is the treasurer in the local women’s cooperative, a credit union set up by the LWF through the local partner organization “Solve Nepal.” A small loan gave her the opportunity to buy a buffalo and create income by selling its milk. The buffalo was buried under the collapsing house in the earthquake. “We only saw a hoof and a piece of rope,” Rardlika says. “So we started digging and pulling, and managed to get it out alive. It was bucking with fear, and we had a really hard time tying it up. All of my family helped.”

It is small blessings like these that keep people going. That and the project work the LWF has been carrying out in Dhusel. Since 2011 inhabitants have been trained in “tunnel farming,” in which they use greenhouses to speed up the harvest. “People told me: it’s good we had built the greenhouses. We could use the plastic sheets for shelter,” Shresta says. “Also, the community already has access to the local authorities. They know their rights and how to access help mechanisms.”

The people of Dhusel have already started to organize themselves. Neighbors help each other trying to rescue personal belongings from the ruins, men patrol at night to prevent children stealing items from the debris. Across the village, hammering is heard as people construct shelter of debris wood. “I have shelter, so I am helping my brother build some for his family,” Manbahadur says, sitting perched on a skeleton of wooden frames. “This trauma has not only happened to me. We are all suffering.”

The earthquake has caused a rush of solidarity among the Nepali people. As offices and universities are closed, volunteers have organized help. In Dhusel it is young men and women of the “Everest Motor Bike Club” Kathmandu who are assisting the villagers in building toilets. “We felt the need to do something, so we built a group on Facebook and just came here,” club member Rakish Rai says. “When so much disaster happens, you just have to help.”
 

Donate to the LWF Nepal Emergency

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See the Nepal country program page

Visit the Nepal earthquake response page

Visit the Nepal country program website