It’s been over 2 months since the first 7.9 earthquake that rocked Nepal. Since then we have had another major 7.3 earthquake and 320+ aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or larger. As aftershocks become less and less common, the question remains: what now?
After two weeks in Malaysia (you may recall that I was there during the first major quake), I arrived back in Kathmandu on May 3. I was so glad to be back, yet it was surreal in many ways. The area where I live was barely affected, except for a fallen wall or two. Many of us are very surprised how well the buildings of Kathmandu withstood the magnitude of the quake. It is a mercy that the whole city wasn’t flattened.
After seeing the pictures and stories on the news, I was braced to return to a city heavy with loss and destruction. However, life in Kathmandu since the quake has been strangely normal in many ways. Water, electricity, and cell service are available. Many shops quickly reopened, the roads are clear, and schools are finally back in session. My house is structurally sound, and very few things fell or broke. If I didn’t leave my neighborhood, I would barely know that the earthquake had happened.
Easy to Forget
It’s easy for me to forget what happened, as I’m sure it is for you. Although I sometimes still jump when something near me gets bumped (“was that a quake?”) and the rubble of a few buildings are still visible around Kathmandu, my daily life has returned to normal – as normal as things get in Nepal. I go to work, I have language classes, I deal with daily annoyances and chores. But for millions in this country, the aftermath of these earthquakes has not allowed them to return to normal.
Many of the country’s most treasured historical buildings are completely gone, with only piles of bricks left in their place. In many rural areas, whole villages were completely flattened. And now, as monsoon is in full swing, the rains are ruining crops, creeping into temporary housing, and triggering deadly landslides.
Although the government has distributed more than $80 million in aid across quake-hit areas, including $150 in cash to over 250,000 families, many people are still living in temporary shelters, in tents, or under tarps. As the monsoon season approaches its peak, these families are not only experiencing extreme discomfort, the old, young, and otherwise vulnerable are risking their lives.
Not only do these heavy rains make living uncomfortable and facilitate spread of disease, they also trigger deadly landslides that destroy roads, farms, and entire villages.
Forced Relocation of Many
On June 30, the government appointed a committee to help those living in high-risk areas temporarily or permanently relocate to safer places. The deadline is coming up, and many are still living in landslide hazard areas. There are challenges to this on many sides: the government is struggling to find places for all these refugees to settle, there is little money to support the move, and many people do not want to leave the places where their families have lived for generations. My good friend’s parents are living in a tent, dealing with monsoon rains with little supplies, but they stay because they are loathe to spend the last years of their life in a dirty city, away from the land and village that they call home.
Triage, then Recuperation
Along with a shortage of foodstuffs and other supplies that is caused by the challenge of transporting goods to remote areas, water shortages are affecting many areas in Nepal. Landslides are compromising people’s sources of water in rural areas, and in refugee camps in Kathmandu water and sanitation are becoming worse and worse.
A recently released report said that while government-led recovery was “scaling up”, there were still at least 2.8 million people – some 10 percent of Nepal’s population – that needed urgent help.
The problems aren’t over for people who live in cities either; as monsoon rains continue, people are working on the task of clearing debris from damaged homes, attempting to salvage personal belongings that were trapped in collapsed buildings. Residents in the Kathmandu area are receiving little to no help in the work of debris clearing and reconstruction work.
According to Nepali government officials, it will cost over $6.6bn and at least five years to reconstruct and rebuild the country.
In a country with poverty levels already among the highest in the world, the earthquake has pushed nearly one million people further into destitution.
If you’ve been following the quake on social media, you may have seen the hashtag WeWillRiseAgain. It was incredibly encouraging to see so many people jumping to their fellow countrymen’s aid. The news has been reporting lots about government incompetency and corruption, which may not be false. However, often unreported is the motivation of individuals to help others, which has been astounding. Police and army personnel worked tirelessly to pull people out of the rubble. Churches and others continue to spend time packing supplies to take to some of the harder hit areas. The passable roads were congested with people going out to village areas to help their family and friends recover from the destruction caused by the quake and its many aftershocks.
How to Help
Many people have expressed a desire to help financially with the quake. Thank you for wanting to participate in blessing those who have lost everything! Here are some suggestions for giving:
Five14: This organization works in remote villages to prevent human trafficking. They are in a unique place, able to supply aid to these villages and continue to build relationships with the folks there.
United Mission to Nepal: UMN has been working in Nepal since the 1950s. Their history in the country means that they understand the social and political climate of Nepal, and that they will remain in country long after the foreign aid organizations have gone, continuing the work of rebuilding Nepal.
This page has a list of a few more relief groups highly recommended by my organization.
Keep praying for Nepal. Remind your friends of what is still happening here. Consider giving. Come visit and support the local economy. And don’t be afraid to contact me for a quick hello or an encouraging word – I’m not as busy as you might think!
Here are some of the sources I drew from to write this post:
List of earthquakes in Nepal
List of historic buildings destroyed in the earthquake
At-risk settlements to be relocated (article)
Victims refuse to shift (article)
Water supply disrupted (article)
2 months since deadly earthquake (article)