Our team finally left for Dolakha on Thursday, 11th June to distribute relief to people from Alampu and Khopachagu VDCs. The supplies we provided included solar lights (for 200 households in Alampu) and plastic toilet construction materials (for 298 households in Khopachagu), as well as 4 bundles of tarps and 25 blankets (donated by Ishita Lohia) and special supplies for 28 women (through Nehi Fund). Two sets of toilet construction materials were sent to Alampu. We decided to give these materials based on a rapid needs assessment carried out by our local contacts Bikesh Thami of Alampu and Jiwan Thami of Khopachagu. Majority of people in our selected areas belong to the indigenous Thami community. Both VDCs are situated on terrain that is extremely vulnerable to landslides.
From Kathmandu, it took us about 12 hours to reach the distribution point in Nikobhumi, Babare VDC. On the way we passed Sunkhani, epicentre of the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck on May 12, and Singati Bazaar, which suffered massive destruction of life and property. As the main road from Singati Bazaar was closed, we took the alternative route, which involved driving up through a rough dirt road. The rain had made the track muddy so we had to get off a few times to push the vehicle that got stuck.
It was still raining when we arrived at Babare around 7 p.m. As the motor road stops at this point, this area has served as a relief distribution point for all relief groups and organizations (except those sending supplies through helicopters). People from five VDCs in Dolakha have to walk to this point to receive relief. Alampu is 5 hours’ uphill trek from here while Khopachagu is about 2-3 hours trek. There are no lodges nearby. A couple runs a small makeshift eatery under a tent that also serves as storage space for relief supplies dropped off by different organizations. Many locals from different VDCs had gathered in Babare to collect relief from various organizations next morning. They were all preparing to spend the night under the same tent. At the makeshift eatery, the couple was cooking and serving food under a lot of pressure. It was 10 p.m. by the time we got our meals. There was very little space in the tent so our team members slept in the jeep and the relief truck. The locals slept crammed together under a tent.
Next morning locals from Alampu VDC and Khopachagu VDC (Wards 1 & 2) came to receive the supplies. We had hired 10 local porters to carry supplies for Alampu. Five of them carried supplies for mothers purchased through Nehi Fund (along with tarps and blankets donated by Ishita Lohia) while the other five carried the 200 solar lamps. We paid the porters NPR 500 each, as suggested by our local coordinators. Locals from the two wards of Khopachagu carried their own supplies as the village is closer. For those with no able-bodied people in their family (elderly, single women, new mothers), our local coordinators had arranged volunteers from the village.
We also provided special supplies for mothers and pregnant women through Nehi Fund. Initially we had planned to give immediate cash relief to mothers, but our local coordinators advised us to give them supplies instead. Everything costs much more in these villages than in Kathmandu due to their remoteness, and many essential items are not available. Each package we gave contained sanitary supplies, food and spices, as well as a blanket and a tarp. New mother supplies also included baby clothes, baby blanket, swaddling cloth, and baby soap. We met a policeman who urgently needed to be at Manthali for his wife’s delivery, and a pregnant woman who was desperately looking for a ride to Kathmandu. Luckily we had some space in our jeep and were able to drop both of them off at their respective destinations. They were very relieved and thankful for receiving help at such a critical moment.
Although giving out cash was not on our plan, we gave NPR 500 to a woman we met on the road near the distribution point: Sita Khadka from Chilangkha VDC. We found her standing by the road in the rain, with a 25 kg sack of rice and solar lamp she had collected from another organization that day. Her home was a 3 hour walk from that point, and a mini truck driver had said he would come pick her up, but he had not shown up even till 10 p.m. She was not carrying any food or water. Speaking to her, we found out she is a single mother of two children. Her husband, a migrant worker in Malaysia, disappeared in Malaysia soon after he lost his fingers while working on machinery. Her in-laws have disowned her. Some time ago she moved to Kathmandu, where she runs a small roadside stall (nanglo pasal). We gave her cash to buy some food at the makeshift eatery and asked her to put her sack and solar lamp in our car (as they were getting wet). On the advice of our local coordinators, she decided to find other women in the tent and spend the night in Babare. Another person we gave some cash to (NPR 1000) was 85-year-old Krishna Prasad Siwakoti of Rudrawati VDC. Lame, blind in one eye, and without immediate family members, he had nonetheless come all the way to receive relief. Hopefully he was able to use the cash to hire a local porter and buy some food.