Two Years After Deadly Earthquake, Nepal Is Safer Thanks To Locally Driven Initiatives

When it comes to building long-term resiliency against future disasters in Nepal, local organizations that are deeply-rooted in Nepalese communities are leading the way.


The potatoes were jumping.

That’s the last memory Maya had before the 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal.

Maya and the other children at the Ama Ghar orphanage survived the quake, as did the orphanage itself, which is located about 11 miles south of Kathmandu. But life will never be the same.

An influx of children, orphaned or displaced by the earthquake, arrived at Ama Ghar, and Maya, previously one of the youngest children at the home, went from being known as a carefree jokester to a doting caretaker to the newest arrivals. The children slept outside for weeks for fear that the walls around them would come crashing down and flatten their home. This was a tragic reality for many of the new kids at Ama Ghar and thousands of people who lived in Kathmandu—the epicenter of the earthquake—and in remote villages across the country. Nearly 9,000 people died as a result of the disaster, and more than 800,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, according to the United States Agency for International Development.

While thinking about the next time disaster strikes can feel like reliving a real-life nightmare in the Himalayan nation, someone has to think about what will happen if the potatoes start jumping again. Nepal sits directly on a major fault line between two tectonic plates making it highly vulnerable to natural disasters. The fault that ruptured in 2015 still has energy equaling about 33 to 50 feet of motion—energy that experts say is ‘unzipped’ and likely to be released in the future.

In the days that followed the April 25, 2015 earthquake in Nepal, there was an outpouring of support for immediate recovery efforts. Dozens of countries sent financial aid and physical resources, including search and rescue teams. Charity Navigator reported that 330 humanitarian agencies launched 2,200 different relief programs and services.

Nearly two years later, a lot of work remains. And when it comes to building long-term resiliency against future disasters in Nepal, local organizations that are deeply-rooted in Nepalese communities are leading the way. Here’s a closer look at how three GlobalGiving partners are in it for the long haul:

    1. Building earthquake-safe classrooms.

    The dZi Foundation was among the first to respond in the chaotic days after the earthquake struck. Founded in 1998, most of the foundation’s staff work and live in Nepal. They spent the first few months after the earthquake distributing tarps for temporary shelters to thousands of people who found themselves homeless. However, reaching survivors in remote areas that needed basic supplies and medical care was difficult, and at times absolutely impossible. They knew that providing temporary shelter was just a short-term fix for a much larger recovery and prevention process that was complicated by the ongoing risk of future earthquakes. In response, dZi turned to local communities to identify 22 schools in desperate need of repair and susceptible to future earthquake damage. In April 2016, they began construction on their first earthquake-safe classrooms, built to withstand future seismic shocks. Along the way, they trained local carpenters and masons on the techniques of building earthquake-safe structures so they could lead their own projects. Their work is a powerful demonstration of the importance of long-term, locally driven recovery efforts.

    2. Understanding and overcoming barriers to recovery.

    Citizen Helpdesk of Accountability Lab Nepal is building an innovative system to elevate the voices of local earthquake survivors in four hard-hit regions of Nepal. The goal: connect with at least 6,000 earthquake survivors and thereby establish stronger communication channels between survivors, donors, and relief agencies. Through listening sessions with survivors, Helpdesk volunteers have identified several major barriers to the recovery process in hard-to-reach areas, including severe water and labor shortages, widespread misinformation, and difficult-to-meet documentation requirements for assistance, according to Helpdesk coordinators Kalpana Acharya and Thukten Lama. Knowing as much as possible about each barrier from multiple perspectives brings Nepal closer to a stronger, fairer, and more inclusive disaster recovery process.

    3. Investing in clean water.

    International Medical Corps is partnering with local disaster relief organizations to build reliable water sanitation systems and provide hygiene trainings throughout Nepal. In the months after an earthquake, the absence of water sanitation systems dramatically increases the already high likelihood of an infectious disease outbreak; in Nepal, keeping cholera at bay is an urgent priority, according to Lori Brister of International Medical Corps. Her team’s goal is to ensure that earthquake survivors have access to uncontaminated water while they rebuild their lives. Recently, they integrated a water sanitation and filtration system in a rural village in the Dhading region of Nepal. In addition, the team constructed a reservoir storage tank that can supply 30 households and nearly 200 people with clean water. Now, the community not only has a reliable source of water, they’re shielded from secondary disease-related disasters.

Discover more amazing earthquake recovery projects in Nepal that need your help today.

Featured Photo: Rebuild a Secondary School for 150 Kids in Nepal by Aura Freedom International

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