By Khem Aryal in Saptari
Indra Maya Tamang, 56, a resident of Sindhulimadhi municipality, did not know the Gwang Khola that always used to be kind and a good source of water would one day turn violent and sweep away her house and all her belongings in minutes. She recalls, she had just got up and was preparing morning tea when the river swelled and swept away all the 14 houses on the bank of the river. "Had it been night hour, God knows how many of us would have died," she sighs in relief. However, she had only difficulties after she and her family survived the flooding in the last monsoon of July 2004. Indra Maya and her neighbours had no roof for shelter. It was raining and the land where their houses once stood was covered by water. And they did not know how they would start their new life.
"This Red Cross tarpaulin gave us only shelter," shows Indra Maya and further says, "We spent two months under this tarpaulin."
But now Indra Maya Tamang is more than happy that her family has a good house. "It would have been very difficult to erect this type of house had it not been a support of the Red Cross," adds Dil Bahadur, one of the 14 families to get rehabilitation support in the district headquarters of Sindhuli district.
Down the mountains, the monsoon had brought bigger disasters in the plain region of the terai. Many were killed and thousands were left homeless and landless. "All our field was swept away and water flooded our houses this high," Dukhini Devi Mandal of Topa village of Saptari district shows the marks of floodwater on a tree trunk as high as five feet. Dukhini Devi and many other village women and children gather around to tell the story of how they survived the flooding. The floods have gone but they have left their marks. The villagers have erected poles to build houses but they have not been able to complete them. Nepal Red Cross Society has distributed them concrete and bamboo poles to build houses but that has not solved the problem in all. Ram Nath Mandal says, "We are happy to have these materials but we have not been able to manage to buy other materials to complete the house."
Nepal Red Cross Society has provided building materials like concrete poles, roofing sheet, bamboo and other materials worth Rs. 12,000 to each family and they have to build the houses on their own. "This will develop a sense of their belongingness to the house," says Badri Khanal, Executive Director of NRCS.
Sukuni Devi Mandal expects to complete the house once the district branch refunds the deposit of Rs. 1,000 plus Rs. 200 that the branch supports for ropes. "We decided to take some deposit to ensure that the needy people make the houses instead of using the materials for other purposes," says Jogendra Bhagat, President of Saptari District Branch of the NRCS.
Saptari district is one of the worst affected districts by flooding in the last monsoon. NRCS district branch is supporting 703 families to build their houses with support from the Federation Appeal and CARE. "Four thousand families needed help, but we could support only these much," says President Bhagat. NRCS Saptari District Branch is working on rehabilitation with other organizations like CARE, Saraswati Samudayik Bikash Manch and Batawara Samrakshan Kendra.
The rehabilitation work of the Nepal Reed Cross Society is going on in 12 districts at present. Altogether 1,800 families will have new houses once the programme completes. More than 12 hundred houses have been completed by now and all of rest will be completed within May 2005.
NRCS is providing construction materials to the affected people and they have to build their house on their own. However, in the disaster of 2002 the NRCS had constructed complete houses and distributed to the affected people. Secretary General of the Society says such participation of the beneficiaries in building their houses will promote their dignity. Dukhini Devi also agrees, "Who will build our house if we do not do it? Red Cross support has enabled us to make our own house." "I am thankful to the Red Cross," she concludes.