Taking matters into their own hands: Rebuilding after Nepal floods

Bimala Pariya, 60, would never have suspected that she would lose everything she owned to the recent flooding in Nepal. The floods not only destroyed her house in the Sunsari District of Nepal, but swept away her toilet, pig shed, household items, and damaged the fresh water well behind her home.

“The last time I saw flooding this severe was 30 years ago,” she said. “The floodwater was so powerful, it rose as high as three feet and broke the embankment that was supposed to protect us.”

Since August 2017, continuous rainfall in Nepal have caused massive flooding which affected over 1.7 million people across 31 districts. In Sunsari District alone, the floods caused the deaths of 12 people, affected over 75,000 people and displaced an estimated 17,000 others. Bimala’s house was one of over 3,500 houses that were completely destroyed.

The disaster didn’t break her spirit. Together with her family, and using what little money she had saved, Bimala has managed to rebuild her damaged property.

“The water receded after three days,” she said. “Many of those who came to assess the damage could not believe us when we told them that the flood submerged our houses and the rice fields as well.”

Bimala’s situation and her resilience to recover and rebuild is not an isolated incident. Like Bimala, Durga Paryar and Pamfa Paryar took matters into their own hands and rebuilt their homes. Yet the solution is a temporary stopgap to an ongoing, annual problem. The three women know they need further help to ensure their houses and property survive future flooding.

“We know that part of the Nepal Red Cross’s work is to respond to our needs during disasters,” Bimala said. “Having their knowledge and expertise will help us build flood-resistant homes.”

The Nepal Red Cross Society mobilized 105 volunteers in the district, reaching over 1,200 households with relief items consisting blankets, tarpaulins and kitchen sets. Through an emergency appeal launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Nepal Red Cross will launch recovery activities in six of the most affected districts, including Sunsari, Bardiya, Mahottari, Rautahat, Saptari, Sarlahi, Siraha and Udayapur. The appeal seeks 3.5 million Swiss Francs to support the needs of 81,000 people with health services, improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and activities to prepare affected communities for future disasters.

A permanent solution to an ongoing problem

Bhir Bahadur Bhattarai of the Belka Municipality in Udayapur District was one of the respondents appointed by the Nepal Red Cross Society to monitor the outcome of the relief distribution activities. As part of the community, his role is crucial, as listens to the voices of the villagers and gathers their thoughts and recommendations for future emergency operations in Nepal.

“People may not believe it, but the floodwaters in our village rose three meters high!” Bhattarai said. “We have learned how to maintain our hygiene so that we don’t fall sick from the contaminated water. What we need now is a permanent solution to this flood problem. If an embankment can be built between us and the river, our village will be spared from the brunt of future flooding.”

At the height of the emergency, the Red Cross reached over 50,000 people with relief items including mosquito nets, oral re-hydration salts, hygiene kits and food packages.