International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
One year on the road to recovery
On 25 April 2015, Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. A second 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck on 12 May 2015. The two earthquakes caused huge devastation, disrupting the lives of 5.6 million people. After completing a massive emergency operation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Nepal Red Cross Society are helping people recover and build a more secure future.
One year on, looking ahead
In a grim year, a cash grant was literally seed money for the Ghimire family.
Roshani Ghimire’s family of four live in the rural hills of Kathmandu district. They are one of 800,000 families in Nepal whose house was damaged or destroyed in the 25 April and 12 May quakes.
“After the earthquake, all the food in our house was buried. We had to go and find work. We are farmers and it was quite difficult for us. We didn’t have money to buy seeds,” says Roshani. “We asked people to give us seeds and we borrowed some and we planted rice.”
A bright spot was a cash grant of 5,000 Nepali rupees (about 50 US dollars or 41 euro) in December from the Nepal Red Cross Society to buy tools and seeds as part of a livelihoods programme.
“It would have been very difficult for us had the Red Cross not helped us at that time,” says Roshani. “We would have had to look for loans. We could at least buy seeds and plant them. Then we were able to sell that crop and buy more seeds.”
– Roshani Ghimire, Nepal
Sharing the fate of about four million other people in Nepal, the Ghimire family is still living in a temporary shelter. When their mudbrick and stone house was ruined, they moved into a plastic tunnel they had used before the disaster as a greenhouse. During the past year, they reinforced the walls with corrugated iron distributed by aid groups including the Nepal Red Cross.
Building earthquake-resistant homes
Rebuilding houses, schools and health clinics that can withstand earthquakes is a crucial part of the Red Cross’ earthquake recovery operation. Already, carpenters, stone masons and others have been taught simple, yet effective ways to strengthen buildings. Under the guidance of Red Cross engineers and shelter experts, people have built model houses that demonstrate to other community members the safest placement of windows and doors, how to “tie” a roof more securely to a structure and where cross-beams should reinforce walls.
Earthquake-resistant construction was used to rebuild a school that now buzzes with life in Tanahun district and a health post that opened in mid-April in Sindhupalchowk district (the first of 28 health posts the Red Cross will rebuild or repair).
These buildings, like the houses that the Red Cross will help people to rebuild, have latrines and water for washing. These features are not extras. They are central to the approach the Red Cross is taking, where each programme links to others.
The physical reconstruction of the health centres is accompanied by community-based health and first aid, which aims to build communities’ overall health and resilience to threats including water-borne diseases.
Similarly, the reconstruction training not only helps people build back better. It also gives people valuable job skills for the huge rebuilding task ahead in Nepal.
Red Cross in action
The emergency phase immediately after the disaster was characterised by speed and scale, says Umesh Prasad Dhakal, Nepal Red Cross Head of Earthquake Response Operations.
“We have a network of trained volunteers and staff in every district. They went into action immediately. With the support of partners, the Nepal Red Cross was able to help people who were really in need after the disaster. This included healthcare, food, tarpaulins, blankets, utensils, water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. We reached 2.5 million people with essential aid.”
Find out more about our emergency help here: Infographic
Cash relief for affected families
Cash distributions were an important component of the Red Cross emergency relief effort. The Red Cross gave 95,000 cash grants to help families with their immediate shelter needs, to prepare for winter or to buy seeds and tools lost in the disaster.
Click here to see how the Red Cross helped families survive winter in mountainous Nepal.
“In the coming months, the Red Cross will build on a more integrated, community-based approach,” says Mike Higginson, the Programme Coordinator for the Nepal Country Office for the IFRC.
“We look at a family unit and a community as a complex entity. We not only focus on people’s housing needs but also their ability to protect their assets and grow them so they have a more secure future. While a family is in a temporary shelter, we want them to keep earning an income. If they don’t have access to their old vocation, we are looking at how to help them.”
Dealing with water dilemmas
“Water is an essential part of the equation,” says Kaustubh Kukde, IFRC Water and Sanitation Delegate.
“The earthquake affected water supply systems because of landslides or the water sources drying or reducing, or pipelines are broken. Communities try their best to restore these water supply schemes but it is not possible for all of them to do it on their own. They need external assistance. The government has been helping and the Red Cross is joining efforts to restore basic infrastructure. In one community I visited, the water source has completely dried up so someone is spending two to three hours a day just to fetch water. That reduces the time they could have spent on farming or earning a living. Plus, it’s likely that a family of five to ten people won’t be getting enough water for drinking, let alone washing or to mix mortar for rebuilding. The Red Cross’ recovery interventions in water, sanitation and improving hygiene are community led.”
Preparing communities for future disasters
As well as building communities’ safety and resilience to future risks, the recovery operation puts a specific focus on improving the Nepal Red Cross’ preparedness for future disasters and capacity to deliver programmes. This includes rebuilding or rehabilitating buildings damaged by the disaster, training volunteers to respond effectively to disasters (for example by managing warehouses, issuing early warnings and monitoring progress), stocking locally relevant emergency relief items where they are most needed, and strengthening systems such as IT, finance and fundraising.
The Red Cross has continued to work on five recovery priorities identified by the Nepal Red Cross: health; livelihoods; water, sanitation and improving hygiene; building preparedness for future disasters and capacity to delivery programmes; and shelter. Challenges during the year included access to remote communities blocked by landslides caused by monsoon rains, five months of shortages due to protest blockades on the Indian border and uncertainty about the government’s direction on rebuilding houses.
A year on from the earthquake, many will be hoping for an easier future.
“We thought we would die so many times. We have survived 12 months, but only just. Slowly we are returning to normal and feel more confident. We will survive this.”
– Dolma Bomjan Tamang, Nepal
The Nepal Earthquake relief and recovery operation has been made possible with the work of close to 8,000 local volunteers and the support of no fewer than 51 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC, ICRC and other Movement partners. To find out more click on our Nepal Page at the IFRC website.
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