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A week after a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook the entire nation, people are still living and sleeping under the open sky. The aftershocks still continue to traumatize the people, and as of May 1,the government was reporting 6,204 dead, 13,913 injured, 148,507 houses destroyed and 136,574 houses damaged.

The earthquake brought down ancient architecture and heritage sites, tore apart paved roads, destroyed buildings, displaced families and took the lives of many innocent people. In aftermath of the shock, electricity and cell phone networks were disrupted, causing a disconnection between families, friends and services. Rumors reached us faster than relief, arising from streets and common shelters that even quoted NASA, BBC and CNN, adding to the woes of the already suffering victims. 

Salina Tamang saved herself, her toddler and niece by jumping out a two-story window during the earthquake.
Salina Tamang saved herself, her toddler and niece by jumping out a two-story window during the earthquake.

Immediately after the earthquake, Heifer Nepal mobilized its staff and partners to assess the damages in its project areas. Of the 31 affected districts, 19 are Heifer project areas, where 65 Heifer project participant lives were lost, and hundreds more were injured. Thousands of families saw their homes destroyed and thousands more homes sustained major damage. 

Salina Tamang, a project beneficiary and young mother barely in her twenties, was sleeping inside her house with her toddler and niece. When the earth started shaking, she held her baby in a tight embrace with one hand, held her niece with the other and jumped out of the window of her two-story house. In an attempt to save her loved ones, she injured her leg. With the local health post still not open, she has been applying oil and kerosene, a local remedy, over her injury.

On April 30, 2015, Heifer Nepal reached one of its projects sites in Chhatre Deurali, Dhading district. With most houses collapsed and unfit to provide shelter combined with continuous rainfall, materials for shelter were high in demand. Therefore, Heifer included tarpaulin tents, blankets and mattresses in its relief package. This was Heifer Nepal’s first experience providing relief support after a disaster hit its communities. But with its strong reach at a community level, Heifer was able to effectively and efficiently mobilize its Self-Help Groups, Project Management Committee (PMC) members, local youth groups and stakeholders in the relief distribution process. The presence of strong social capital among the community members helped in many ways. Influential community leaders such as former Village Development Secretary Raja Ram helped to calm the crowd while members of the PMC and the local youth club volunteered in the distribution and registration processes. The chairperson from each Self-Help Group organized her group to receive the relief packages and ensure that no family missed out during distribution.

But there still is so much more to do.

You can help Nepal recover and rebuild by donating to our Disaster Rehabilitation Fund.    

Since the earthquake, Chhatre Deurali and its neighboring villages haven’t had electricity or a working telephone network. Many families haven’t been able to contact their loved ones living in the city and abroad. Drinking water tanks have collapsed and pipes have ruptured. The women have to travel as far as an hour to collect a bucket full of water. Post-disaster, there is a high risk of an outbreak, as most of the people are already showing signs of the common cold, fever and diarrhea.

The earthquake turned Kanchi Tamang’s entire life upside-down. She shares, “There is nothing left now. My house has turned into rubble. The walls fell over my goat shed, burying four nanny goats and two billy goats. I still have not been able to retrieve their bodies.” Both her sons are working abroad, one in India and another in the Middle East. In absence of youth, there is a lack of manpower in the community that needs it for the recovery process.

In the middle of such chaos, there is still hope, and families are showing signs of resilience. Kamala Tamang and her husband have come to accept the loss of their ancestral house. They have started building a temporary shelter from locally available bamboo and tin retrieved from their collapsed home. They are hopeful that once the situation is stabilized, their community will eventually come together to support each other and rebuild their lives.

But for now, the bitter reality of no shelter, empty stomachs and lack of basic needs still haunts them.       

Read more about Heifer's response to the earthquake and view more photos in previous posts. 

Author

Alina Karki

Alina Karki serves as Communication and Networking Officer for Heifer Nepal. She joined Heifer as an intern in 2012 and worked briefly with the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluations team before joining the Communications department. With Heifer she tells inspiring stories of everyday heroes.