Response to Nepal Earthquake

by Mercy Corps
Response to Nepal Earthquake

Despite many challenges, the people of Nepal are moving forward after last year's devastating earthquakes. Our team on the ground is there to help them rebuild. All photos: Tom Van Cakenberghe 

Last year, a powerful earthquake in Nepal devastated the country. As we look back, one year later, the numbers tell a story about the disaster itself, recovery efforts, and your impact.

135,000 — The number of people we reached with emergency supplies immediately after the disaster, thanks to the compassion of people like you.

7.8 — The magnitude of the initial earthquake, strong enough to shake historical sites to the ground, break roads apart and send homes sliding down Nepal’s beautiful green hillsides.

8 million — The number of people, about 40 percent of Nepal, who were affected by the earthquake and its powerful aftershocks.

Because of you, our team has been able to stand with Nepalis during this difficult time — and help them get the tools and information they need to build back stronger than before. But the road to recovery has been filled with challenges.

Monsoon season threatens recovery

After the deadly earthquakes in April and May, the monsoon season — normally from June through September — came early. Torrential rains pounded Nepal, soaking families who only had thin tarps or makeshift tents for shelter.

“The earthquake was the big event, but we still have aftershocks. The earthquake hit, and then the monsoon season came early — so just as people were forced out of their houses, the rains came pouring down,” said Jeff Shannon, director of programs in Nepal.

Rebuilding during the monsoon season was difficult. For people who could afford it, often the best they could do was purchase tin sheeting to create temporary shelters or repair areas of their damaged homes.

We offered unconditional cash to 23,000 people so they could purchase emergency supplies or buy the items needed to repair their homes or create better shelters for their families. By working with local shops, the cash transfers infused $1.7 million into the economy.

Fuel crisis slows relief efforts

Just as the monsoon season was coming to an end — offering an opportunity for the people of Nepal, and organizations like Mercy Corps, to ramp up recovery efforts — a widespread fuel crisis crippled the economy even further.

From September of last year through February, there was almost no fuel available. People were trapped, hospitals began to shut down, and medicine ran out. “Things just stopped moving around the country,” Shannon said. “Prices for everything doubled, and quadrupled. At just the moment when you wanted to rebuild and get investment going, everything came to a dead stop.”

For families who had already lost almost everything when the earthquake hit, the effects of the fuel crisis were another tough blow. Most people were already vulnerable, with little or no savings, so whatever they did have was spent quickly on food and emergency supplies.

“People had already lost their houses, their seeds, and their livestock. They couldn’t buy more of anything, because of the prices,” Shannon said. “Farmers couldn’t sell their crops because there were no trucks. So they started eating seed stock — but then you have nothing to plant. You have no money and no seeds. As a farmer, what do you do?”

Tell Congress to support smart recovery efforts for Nepal 

The prolonged fuel crisis made Mercy Corps’ work extremely difficult. Many of the earthquake’s hardest-hit areas are rural and isolated. With no fuel, it was impossible to reach them for much of that time period. The team did meet with local communities as they were able to understand their needs and lay the groundwork for a more robust, long-term response.

As the winter temperatures dropped, the needs of recovering Nepalis became even more apparent. “It was morally devastating to see that people were sleeping under tin sheets in snow, ice and freezing winter,” Shannon said. Some even went back into their crumbling houses just to escape the elements.

Despite the tremendous challenges brought on by the fuel crisis, Shannon and his team were able to distribute extra winter supplies to more than 36,000 people in need. “We were able to go out and help the really vulnerable with extra blankets.”

Fuel crisis ends, optimism begins

The fuel crisis eventually ended, and things are slowly returning to the way they were last summer. “There is a cautious sigh of relief,” Shannon said . “Prices for staples have slowly decreased — they are almost back to normal levels. Fuel supplies are much improved, but still in somewhat short supply, while cooking and heating gas is still often difficult to get.”

When fuel became available after so many months, the team in Nepal couldn’t wait to get to work helping people get back on their feet. The team shifted from only being able to work sporadically to working in the field every day since the fuel crisis ended. “Everyone’s racing just as fast as they can go,” Shannon said.

Now, our biggest goals are helping Nepalis rebuild their homes, access financial services like banking, and physically strengthen their communities against landslides, flooding and future disasters.

Nepal’s lush green hillsides are particularly vulnerable to landslides during disasters — which makes evacuating, or delivering aid, extremely difficult. “We saw more landslides in the two weeks after the earthquake than in the last five years,” Shannon said.

To strengthen those fragile areas and help Nepalis earn more income, we’re hiring locals to build infrastructure that will make the hillsides safer. Efforts like this are bringing communities together. “As an individual, I can’t make that hillside safer, but as a community we can do that — and Mercy Corps can help,” Shannon said.

We’re also working with our partners, like Build Change, again to help earthquake survivors rebuild their homes with affordable and accessible materials.

Most people in the rural, hardest-hit areas don’t have access to any financial services, so we are working with local banks to provide financial literacy training and extend their services into these areas to help Nepalis save, and invest in their homes and businesses.

Nepalis show resilience in the face of disaster

Despite the many challenges they’ve faced in the last year alone, Jeff Shannon is confident in the resilience of the people of Nepal.

“These are some of the most amazing, kind, generous and welcoming people I’ve ever met. In the midst of devastation, you saw people who were happy that they survived, happy their neighbors were there, and they were celebrating the fact that they were alive,” Shannon said.

“You go to communities where nothing is left standing, and people are putting flowers around your neck and offering you tea. The unbreakable spirit of Nepalis will see them through this. It’s awe-inspiring. They’re quite sure they’re going to get through it — and we want to be there to help them do that.”

As the people of Nepal continue their recovery, the team is working hard to help in whatever way they can. Now that the fuel crisis is over, the monsoon season is on its way — it’s a race against the clock to get as much done as possible before the rains set in.

Recovery is possible because of you

When the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal last year, 50,000 people like you stepped up to donate to our emergency relief efforts. One year later, Jeff Shannon, his team, and the people of Nepal remain grateful for your compassion.

“It’s only because of the people who gave $5 that we are able to help. Because people gave, we’ve been able to build up a response that is really focused on the people in those villages who offered us cups of tea when they had no house around them,” Shannon said.

“We would never be able to do what we’re doing now if it weren’t for the people who gave at that time. All the little donations have enabled us to respond, and a year on, we’re still doing it. Thank you.

 

Photo captions - (captions correspond to photos in order of sequence from top to bottom, below):

Rom Prasad is a local leader who is helping his community remove landslide debris from the earthquake and prepare the area for future disasters. "I join this work to save our village from the danger that this landslide can pose," he said.

Adi Maya lost her home in last year's earthquake. Only the ground floor now remains, and she and her husband live in this temporary shelter. She's joined the local Mercy Corps financial lit

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Tom Van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps
Tom Van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps

Access to financial services impacts disaster preparedness

Portland, Ore. - Nepal must build a more inclusive society, increase government accountability and build stronger financial support mechanisms in order to improve recovery efforts for future natural disasters, according to research conducted by the global organization Mercy Corps. Drawing upon lessons learned from this year’s deadly earthquake, the organization illuminates key areas in which change will be needed to make Nepal more resilient to future natural disasters.

“Nepal is very vulnerable to all types of natural disasters, including landslides and earthquakes. Mercy Corps sought to understand which factors hold the greatest promise for people to be resilient to similar events in the future, and what we could do to speed recovery,” says Olga Petryniak, Director of Regional Resilience Initiatives for Mercy Corps’ South and East Asia programs. “Each crisis may require a unique solution, but we can identify more specifically what people can do to help nations like Nepal bounce back.”

In its new report What Next For Nepal? Evidence of What Matters for Building Resilience After the Gorkha Earthquake, Mercy Corps recommends changes in several areas that are crucial contributors to resilience:

1. Disaster preparedness and response: Build greater preparedness on a community- and household-level, which will result in better accountability and faster response.

2. Social identity and networks: Because caste and gender strongly influence post-quake welfare, actively contribute to the strengthening of supportive and inclusive networks.

3. Financial services: Seek ways to establish relationships between financial service providers and households that will result in appropriate savings and credit resources.

4. Economic opportunities: Provide cash to those affected by a disaster to quickly restore markets and support livelihoods.

Mercy Corps surveyed nearly 1,200 households in Nepal 10 weeks after April’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The quake killed more than 9,000 people, destroyed a half-million homes and displaced some 2.8 million residents.

A nation in transition, Nepal remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Read or download the full report.

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  • All photos: Tom van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps

All photos by Tom van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps

It's been six months since a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, killing more than 9,000 people and rupturing the lives of nearly 8 million.

Today, thanks to our supporters and partners, communities are slowly beginning to recover.

In the past six months, we’ve reached more than 135,000 people with emergency supplies, cash, food support, safe water and temporary shelter.

The earthquake devastated local economies and brought down electricity lines, leaving families with little money and no electricity.

But cash assistance — distributed to 23,000 families — is helping people get the supplies they need to rebuild. And solar lamps, included in many of our emergency kits and equipped with mobile charging ports, are helping families communicate with each other.

In the coming months and years, we will continue to help vulnerable families access financial services like recovery loans, and we will engage communities in emergency planning to better prepare them for future disasters.

Below, meet a few of the earthquake survivors you’ve helped us reach and find out what support they’re most grateful to have.

Jyanu

See photo below (top)

Her story: Jyanu, 32, owns a small restaurant in her village. She and her husband work there to support their three children. Jyanu and her family used to live in the same building as the restaurant and grow vegetables outside, but April’s earthquake damaged the living quarters, so they had to build a temporary shelter nearby.

“Before the earthquake, everything was in order,” Jyanu says. “The restaurant was good, the farm was good. After, everything was messed up. I was afraid of losing our [temporary] shelter because of the winds and the aftershocks. But now the aftershocks have stopped.”

Mercy Corps distributed emergency kits in the village — Jyanu and her family received cooking supplies, sleeping mats, blankets, a solar light, and cash to help them rebuild.

What she’s most grateful for: The solar light that Jyanu received is helping her whole family, including her three children, who study by its light each night. “The solar light is best,” she says. “Even before the earthquake, we had problems with electricity. The light is dim at night. We use the solar light all evening until bed.”

Jyanu is preparing for a brighter future, too. She saved a portion of the cash assistance for each of her three children.

Kumari

See photo below (second from top)

Her story: Kumari was six-months pregnant with her baby Santosh when the earthquake struck her village. Her older child Ridham, 7, was injured in the earthquake. Kumari and her husband’s home was destroyed, and they had to sell their valuable oxen to pay for Ridham’s medical bills.

Kumari’s husband works as a plumber and makes about 600 rupees each day, but they estimate it will take 80,000 rupees to build a new home. For now, they are living in a temporary shelter until they can rebuild.

What she’s most grateful for: Kumari and her family received an emergency supply kit and 7,500 rupees in unconditional cash to use for whatever they needed most. Because their home was destroyed, they used the money to buy corrugated metal to help construct their temporary shelter.

Kumari also appreciates the solar light that came in her kit — it gives her the light she needs to cook healthy food for her family.

Muya

See photo below (third from top)

Her story: Muya moved to this area when she married her husband 30 years ago. They’ve lived in their home for 20 of those years, raising their five children ages 15-28.

“When the earthquake happened, I was running and crying. I fell down and started to cry,” she remembers, standing on the same ledge where she stood at the time. She was only steps away from falling down the hill with the crumbling rock.

Muya and her family are living in a temporary shelter now, but it’s not as close to home as she’d like — she’s anxious to rebuild the family home. “When I was first married and came here I didn’t know anyone and I was sad. But then I fell in love with this place. Now I know everyone, I don’t want to leave.”

What she’s most grateful for: “I couldn’t bring anything from the [damaged] house so I could use everything,” she says when asked about the emergency kit her family received. “Clothes, kitchen stuff, the solar lamp. We use it for cooking and for going to the toilet at night.”

Muya and her husband used cash assistance to help build the temporary shelter they now live in with their children.

Basanta

See photo (above)

Her story: Before the earthquake, Basanta and her husband lived in a secluded home up in the hills with their young daughter Yasna. Basanta was outside taking care of their cattle when the earthquake hit — tiny Yasna slept inside on the ground floor.

Their home was destroyed, but fortunately Yasna survived. “I was lucky my daughter wasn’t upstairs where she usually sleeps,” Basanta says. “I wouldn’t have been able to get to her before the house collapsed.”

Now, Basanta and her young family have moved in with her mother-in-law. Their home is cracked, but livable, and Basanta has a small garden to grow food. But the village’s water source was damaged by the earthquake. “Before the tap was repaired, we walked 35 minutes to fetch water, two or three times a day.”

What she’s most grateful for: For Basanta and her family, clean water is the most important thing they could ask for. Mercy Corps repaired the village’s water tap, and now the family is happier. “I go to the water tap about 15 times a day, to get water for the livestock, to wash clothes, carry water to the house and garden,” Basanta says.

Cash helped Basanta’s mother-in-law repair the family home, and they use the utensils from the emergency kit to eat meals together.

Buri Maya

See photo below (third from top)

Her story: Buri Maya’s home was completely destroyed during April’s devastating earthquake. She’s been married for 37 years and is a mother to five boys. Three of her sons are married, and all of the children lived together with Buri Maya and her husband before the earthquake hit.

Rebuilding will be a struggle for Buri Maya and her family — they face the challenge of removing large amounts of debris from the area before they can build a new home.

What she’s most grateful for: “Everything is perfect, but I liked the solar lantern best,” she says of the emergency kit she received. “It has helped a lot for cooking, and lot of household things. My son uses it to do his homework.”

Buri Maya and her husband were able to build a temporary shelter with the cash they received, as well as enough rice to feed the family for a month after the disaster.

Sharmila

See photo below (bottom)

Her story: Sharmila and her husband live in a village near Sharmila’s parents. After the earthquake, they came back to care for Sharmila’s ailing parents, and have been with them ever since.

“When I came to home to see my parents after the earthquake, the village looked like a refugee camp,” Sharmila says. “Even though the houses are still standing people can’t live there.“ The houses are too damaged to be safe anymore. “My husband and I, we’ll be ok, but I’m worried about my parents,” she says.

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Tom Van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps
Tom Van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps

Saraswati holds the money she received from Mercy Corps. Saraswati plans to use the cash to purchase supplies to build a temporary shelter for her family.

 

It has been three months since the devastating Nepal earthquake. Because of your generous support Mercy Corps has been able to reach over 68,000 people with essential items like food, clean water, shelter supplies and cash.

While we continue to work to meet some of the most immediate needs such as safe water, food support and shelter items, in the next several months we will increasingly shift our focus to longer-term recovery efforts.  Our ultimate goal is to build the resilience of affected communities and to connect people to the resources they need to rebuild even stronger than before the earthquake.

In the past six weeks Mercy Corps has distributed cash to 6,700 households, benefiting close to 34,000 people. In the next month we will reach an additional 19,000 households with cash. This cash assistance allows families to purchase the items that are most important to them — seeds and agricultural tools, food, school fees, building materials — while giving local economies the boost they need for long-term recovery.

What you are making possible is also reflected in these stories and photos.  

Saraswati, pictured above, lives in the Nuwakot district of Nepal with her ten-year-old daughter, her eleven-year-old son, and her husband. On April 25th they were sitting in their home when suddenly they felt the floor and walls shake. They managed to quickly escape, but their home was destroyed.

Saraswati and her family are not alone. Nuwakot is one of the regions that was hit hardest by the quake. Damage in these areas is massive — homes destroyed, livelihoods lost, economies stalled and entire villages leveled. That is why Mercy Corps is working in this district, and other hard hit areas, to get cash and much needed supplies into the hands of families.

Last week Saraswati traveled to Sunkhani to participate in a cash distribution led by Mercy Corps. She received a kit that included a solar lantern, hygiene, shelter, and kitchen supplies as well as the equivalent of $75 in cash. She told Mercy Corps that she planned to use the money to invest in supplies and tools to build a temporary home for her family.  

The following captions relate to the photos below:

(Top) To date Mercy Corps has distributed cash to 6,700 households. This unconditional cash assistance allows families to purchase the items that are most important to them while giving local economies a boost. 

(Middle) In the next month Mercy Corps will reach an additional 19,000 households with cash. Some families plan to use the money to purchase food while others have plan to purchase shelter supplies and supplies for their small businesses. 

(Bottom) In Kritipur, Ram, 39, learns how to purify a large can of water using the water purification liquid from her emergency kit.  Mercy Corps has reached over 68,000 people to date with essential items like food, water purification supplies, shelter supplies and cash.

 

 

 

 

  

Tom Van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps
Tom Van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps
Tom Van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps
Tom Van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps
Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps
Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps
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Mercy Corps

Location: Portland, OR - USA
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Mercy Corps
Portland, OR United States

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