On 25th April 2015 a massive earthquake struck Nepal between the capital of Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara, killing thousands and causing widespread devastation.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes fearing aftershocks and gathered in the surrounding areas, some in makeshift camps. Transport and communications were severely disrupted.
Just over two weeks later on 12th May, a second earthquake of a similar magnitude caused further devastation.
Our immediate action
In the first few days after the first earthquake hit, our priorities were to ensure that affected people had access to adequate humanitarian assistance and to prevent the outbreak of disease. Our staff in Nepal began to reach out to people in Kathmandu to assess needs. A team of technical experts from the surrounding area and beyond were mobilized.
During the first weeks, we distributed staple food supplies, alongside rice seeds and agricultural tools for farmers. Outside of Kathmandu Valley, our teams battled logistical challenges, such as blocked roads, to reach communities in remote areas. We managed to ship vital emergency supplies to Gorkha, near the epicenter of the quake, as well as providing tarpaulins, rice, water and sanitation equipment to other hard-hit rural districts.
In Kathmandu Valley, we provided clean water and sanitation facilities to earthquake survivors living in some of the worst hit districts. Our technical experts constructed water tanks and sanitation facilities in the temporary camps.
As the monsoon approached, we put in place stocks of chlorine tablets, tarpaulins and seed bags so that during the rains, people in isolated communities had access to safe water, shelter and could store their seeds to plant later in the year.
Improving well-being in the future
Our response presented an opportunity to build lasting change. By October 2015 we had been able to reach 445,000 people with clean water, sanitation, shelter and emergency food support in seven districts.
•We had distributed over 54,000 emergency and improved shelter kits.
•We had helped 17,000 farmers to access rice seeds to replenish destroyed supplies.
•We had constructed 8,000 latrines and provided chlorinated water to 35,000 people.
As winter approached, we insulated and waterproofed shelters and helped to protect livestock. We also facilitated training to carpenters, masons and local women to construct and improve their homes and began the work of rehabilitating damaged water supplies in schools and hill communities. We assisted people to recover their livelihoods, by restarting economic activities in the communities.
The response presented a chance to support people to be directly involved in improving their own well-being and that of their communities, helping to foster solidarity and social cohesion.
Working for recovery
Rita is a mother of three daughters and lives in the village of Lamatar about an hour’s drive outside Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu. Her family was doing nicely before the earthquake. Her husband, Suraj is a good cobbler and specializes in making shoes for school children. He earned 500-700 rupees (£3.25-£4.50) of profit a day. By Western standards this might not seem like very much, but in Lamatar a little goes a long way.
When the earthquake stuck their lives were turned upside down. Their home and Suraj’s small shop was destroyed and with it so was their livelihood. Like everyone in Lamatar Rita, Suraj and their family had to sleep out in the open for many weeks after the earthquake.
They eventually managed to build a temporary home out of corrugated sheeting and bamboo provided by a local aid organization that Oxfam supports. They were also given food, blankets and sleeping mats, along with hygiene essentials such as soap.
Nearly everyone in the village is finding it difficult to make ends meet and Suraj is owed money from many people in the community but he says he doesn’t have the heart to ask for a repayment.
While they wait to raise enough money for Suraj to restart his business they are getting by with other work, Rita makes tassels for pashminas while Suraj has found construction contracts which support his family and the community as a whole, helping to rebuild the village in a safer and more sustainable way.