On 27 April 2016 we conducted a small health camp for displaced families of Haku living in Sanhkule camp, Kaliksthan, Rasuwa. Dr Sritika Thapa gave basic checkups and medicines to 34 patients (mostly women and a few men) in the camp. Dr Thapa, a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has been actively supporting our relief effort over the past year. She found that most women in the camp suffer from multiple ailments – chronic fatigue, body ache, respiratory problems such as acute upper respiratory infection and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)/asthma exacerbation, and diarrhea. The men had respiratory problems. The few children she saw appeared malnourished. Several factors seem to have steadily worsened the health of the camp residents: cramped temporary shelters that can barely guard against the elements; constant exposure to smoke from cooking fire compounded by the absence of ventilation; lack of basic nutrition; lack of access to clean drinking water; and lack of even basic medicines or access to basic healthcare services. These problems further reveal how urgently the displaced families need to be rehabilitated in a new location.
The community of Haku VDC, Rasuwa has been through extremely difficult times over the past year. They are among the poorest in the entire district, socially marginalised and far removed from the local power structure. Although the number of lives lost in Haku was second only to Langtang (also in Rasuwa), the village has received scant attention from national and international actors. At least two areas in Haku (ward no 8 & 9) were completely wiped out by the earthquake. The villagers are permanently displaced, have no source of income and are staying in temporary shelters on leased land from where they could get evicted anytime. They are doing all they can to survive from one day to the next, but are deeply worried about how long they can carry on like this. A young man from one of the camps, who lost his wife, home and village in the quake, committed suicide a few days ago. His friends and relatives think the heavy loss, displacement and uncertainty about the future had made life unbearable for him. There are many others who seem pushed to the edge of despair.
The greatest priority of the camp residents at the moment is to build liveable shelters from where they will not get evicted. They have identified a piece of land in Battar, Nuwakot where 95 families from two camps could possibly resettle. They are struggling to find the means to buy the land, to no avail. Even though the families have pooled in every bit of cash in their possession, including small cash relief received from organizations/individuals, they have not been able to come up with the required sum. Camp co-ordinators have tried to obtain a loan from different sources but since they need a fairly big amount (NPR 25 lakhs or roughly $25,000) and since the community is very poor, individuals and institutions are hesitant to give despite the coordinators’ repeated assurances that they will repay installments in time.
Unfortunately, our group does not have enough funds left to help them purchase the land, but we have been trying to support them in smaller ways. We also plan to start a livelihood scheme for families from two camps. Below I’ve provided brief updates on our recent work with people from Haku.
Furniture support to Haku Secondary School
At the request of teachers and students of Haku VDC, Rasuwa, a few weeks ago we provided education materials and furniture for Haku Secondary School. There are around 200 students in this school. They had been living in temporary camps far from their village but returned to their destroyed village as they could not find a place for resettlement. The local school does not have classrooms or furniture.
It was a very difficult task transporting the furniture and education materials to the village. The local teachers (Umesh Thokar and Buddhi Moktan) stayed under a tent for two nights at the delivery point guarding the furniture. Next day one of them went to Haku and arranged a few women porters (no male porters were available) to carry the furniture along the steep and dangerous trail.
Umesh Thokar said Haku villagers had lost hope that they would get any real support from government or donors. It’s been a year since the earthquake devastated their village, but people have received nothing except small relief supplies a few times. For example, one donor provided shoes for children and the kids had to wait for the next donor to get socks. The teachers said the furniture is the first substantial form of support they have received and it means a lot to them. They have sent their sincere thanks to all those to contributed funds, time and labour for this initiative. The total cost of education materials, sports items, furniture including transportation was NPR 247,269.
Rations for families in four IDP camps
Most organizations have stopped providing emergency relief such as food to earthquake survivors, but there are many who are still in need of such support. Displaced people of Haku, who lost their homes, livelihoods and village, are among them. Realizing that families in Haku IDP camps were facing severe food shortage, Trek for Nepal (a volunteer group led by Nischal Neupane) proposed providing them rations in February 2016. Out of the 500 bags (30 kg each) of rice provided by Trek for Nepal, 110 bags were procured by our group for NPR 111,200. The 500 bags of rice were distributed to 383 families in four IDP camps (Satbise, Naubise, Bogatitar and Sankhule) based on family size.
Drinking water supply for families in Satbise camp
Some of the displaced people of Haku are living in temporary shelters in Satbise, Nuwakot. Among many other problems, they had been facing acute shortage of drinking water. Local residents did not allow them to use their water source. (They think the camp residents have ruined the environment of their village and regard them with hostility.) Therefore, the camp coordinator requested various donors to provide them support for drinking water supply. They needed 1500 metres of 20mm diameter high-density polythene pipes. Our group provided 1000 metres, and the rest was provided by an NGO. The total cost of the pipes and transportation was NPR 41,000. Camp residents contributed labour for construction and installation. The pipe has been fixed to the main source and 37 families in the camp now have access to drinking water. They have expressed their gratitude to all the individuals who contributed funds to our relief group.
Last month we provided support for rebuilding the drinking water supply system in Amanthali, Khopachagu-8, a predominantly Thami village in Dolakha district. The total cost of the project was NPR 162,172. Below is a message from one of the locals who coordinated the project. (The message was slightly edited for clarity):
“We are proudly announcing that we have successfully completed the installation of three drinking water taps and a 10,000-litre capacity water reservoir for 15 households with active participation of locals.
All required materials (cement, pipes and taps, etc.) were provided by Quake Relief Group (led by Shradha Ghale), along with full transportation cost and daily tiffin allowance for workers during construction.
The devastating massive earthquake destroyed the water reservoir in the village. Until recently, there was acute shortage of drinking water. For the last forty years, we never had any water project or water-oriented support in this small village. So now this project can benefit local community for the long term.
We are grateful to everyone who supported the project on behalf of local community.
President, Thangmi Youth Association
Last month we handed over cash relief to children from three Tamang families in South Lalitpur. The families were selected in close consultation with the local school management committee and other community members, all of whom unanimously agreed that they were the three most vulnerable families in the community. Cash support for one of the families was provided by Sheela Fudong. For the other two, we used the funds provided by our generous friends and supporters.
1. Brish Bahadur Negi, 7. His father Karna Negi is disabled and his mother Sarita has to support the family by herself. She has three children, including a 10-year-old daughter (Class 5) from her first husband. She got married to Karna Negi after her first husband married another woman and left her alone to support her daughter. She married Karna even though he was partially disabled. His condition grew worse over time. For the last two years he has been completely unable to move his limbs. (The family says this happened after he received a Japanese acupuncture treatment at Jorpati Hospital, Kathmandu.) The family’s only source of income is a small shop they run near their house. Sarita can rarely leave the house because she has to nurse her husband all the time. She earns around NPR 100 to 150 per day from the shop. Karna gets a disability allowance of NPR 1,000 from the government. Brish is an epilepsy patient and needs more than NPR 1,500 every month for medicine. Therefore they take loan from a cooperative for household and medical expenses. They have still not been able to repair their house, which was destroyed by the quake. The only support they have received from the government so far is NPR 10,000.
Brish’s father Karna cannot move his limbs without his wife’s support. When we visited him, we found out that he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since the previous day for fear of urinating and defecating, because his wife had gone to the school to collect the cash relief.
He expressed his gratitude to the donor and our team for the cash support. He said his family will use the money to expand the shop. Until then they will keep the money in fixed deposit in a local cooperative. Karna asked us to request willing donors (individuals or organizations) to support the education of his children. He and his wife are even willing to send his children away to a different place if they can get a good education. Karna said he wants to see them going to a good school before he dies.
2. Bishnu Maya Nyasur, age 7 years, Class 2. The school management committee recommended support for Bishnu as her family’s economic condition is extremely weak. Her mother Sarita, 23, is a single mother; her father committed suicide in October 2015 as he could not rebuild his quake-destroyed hut and arrange food and shelter for his family. Sarita did not receive an Earthquake Victim Identity Card that would entitle her to the compensation provided by the government because she lives in her parental home. She works as a seasonal farm labourer and earns a daily wage of NPR 300-400. On other days she makes home brewed liquor and sells it in the local market for a livelihood.
3. Raju Syangtan, age 9, Class 2. His mother Kanchhu Maya Syangtan, 45, is mentally ill. He has two siblings – Bibi, 5, and Bir, 21 months. We were told that Raju’s father Asman is an alcoholic and does not support his family. Therefore, his school teachers have taken the initiative to support the two children’s education. Since Raju’s father is said to be an alcoholic, and his mother is mentally ill, the cash received by her was passed on to a local schoolteacher Bhuwaneswor Timilsina in the presence of other community members. They will advise Kanchhu Maya to use this money to buy a goat for income generation.
With the generous support of Fungma Fudong, Priyata Thapa & friends, and Trek Nepal (Nischal Neupane), we were able to provide some warm clothes to displaced children from Haku VDC, Rasuwa who are now living in four IDP camps (Satbise, Naubise, Bogatitar and Sankhule). Prior to carrying out this initiative, Purna Rai visited the camps and gathered detailed information and data in coordination with the camp coordinators. Based on this data, the children were divided into different age groups. Our group members and volunteers from Nari Shakti Women Cooperative spent weeks meeting potential vendors and local tailors, comparing prices and products, and coordinating with camp residents to decide what types of clothes should be provided to the children. Some clothes were made at a local tailoring shop and others purchased from local shops in Kathmandu over the next two weeks. Our volunteers collected them, transported them to the cooperative office and spent days sorting and packing them for distribution.
The following types of clothes were distributed:
- Baby clothes for infants (age: 7 days to 6 months)
- A set of fleece jacket and trousers (age: 6 months–3 years)
- Fleece set and school uniform sweater (age: 4–18 years)
A total of 425 sets of fleece trousers and jackets, 342 sweaters, and 28 sets of baby clothes were distributed in the four camps. The total cost for this activity was NPR 329,265. The cost also included a subsistence allowance for Purna Rai, transportation cost, and meal for local volunteers.
The total funds received for this initiative was NPR 360,820. Trek for Nepal (Nischal Neupane) contributed NPR 230,000; Priyata Thapa and friends contributed NPR 80,000 and Fungma Fudong contributed NPR 35,000. In addition, NPR 15,820 was donated by Fred Roberts Jr. (through Priyata Thapa and friends) for providing small snacks to children during distribution.
The residents of the four camps thanked the donors and organizers for providing warm clothes at a time they needed them most. Children in Sankhule IDP camp in particular were in dire need of warm clothes as the camp is situated on a hill slope that does not get any sun.
We made the following notes based on our interaction with the camp residents after distribution:
- In Naubise, warm clothes were insufficient as there are huge numbers of IDPs from different quake affected locations of Rasuwa. Only 176 IDP children, including babies, from Ward 8 and 9 of Haku VDC received the clothes.
- In Bogatitar IDP camp, senior citizens requested support for medical service, food, clothes and shelter. They suggested that the elderly do not receive enough attention compared to children and single women.
- Buti Tamang (Tiru, Haku 8), assistant coordinator of Bogatitar IDP camp, expressed her concern regarding the uncertainty about their temporary shelter. The land lease is ending in a few months. They are paying a very high rent – NPR 6000 per family/year, which amounts to a total of NPR 538,000 for 88 families. This means they are paying almost NPR 8000 per 500 square metre, a very high rate by any standard, let alone for displaced families who have lost their homes and livelihoods. The camp residents have to pour whatever little they have into paying the rent (which they still can’t afford), and this has prevented them from engaging in livelihood activities that might have improved their situation, such as vegetable production, poultry production and other vocational activities. The IDPs are thus trapped in a vicious cycle. A few NGOs have leased land and established field training centres for the IDPs (for vegetable production, apiculture, poultry production and vocational training) but the IDPs themselves are unable to initiate activities they want. The NGOs pay a high rent for the land, and this has affected existing land renting practices to the IDPs’ disadvantage. Bam Bahadur Tamang from Sankhule camp reported that they were initially hopeful and enthusiastic about leasing land and starting livelihood activities, but the high rent of land has gradually killed their hope and desire.
- Nira Tamang, 24, from Haku 8 lives in Bogatitar IDP camp with her husband and three-year-old daughter. She and her husband do not have a regular source of income. Therefore she participated in a weeklong poultry rearing training provided by an NGO and is hoping to start a small poultry business. She really wants to lease a small plot of land and build a shed for raising a few hundred chickens. But she needs at least NPR 50,000 to cover startup costs. She is willing to pay interest and looking to get a loan from any financial institution, but none of the financial agencies are supporting her. Left with no option, she has at last taken a loan from a local woman and agreed to pay a 36% annual interest.
- All IDPs are worried about their permanent shelter as they cannot return to their home village and the government has not yet identified an area for their resettlement. For most IDPs, land for resettlement is the greatest priority at the moment, and they are hoping that donors or I/NGOs will support them by arranging land where they can build long-term shelters. In addition, people in some camps are facing a shortage of food supplies and have requested further support.
In March 2016, our group provided school furniture for Saraswoti Primary School, Bukhel VDC-9, south Lalitpur at the request of the school management committee. The school was destroyed by the earthquake and the students did not even have enough benches to sit on during classes. Donated supplies included a few sets of steel pipes, desks and benches, steel cabinets, chairs and shelves. The total cost of the project was NPR 67,050 including transportation. The teachers and students greatly appreciated the support. Earlier, our group had provided school uniforms to students from this school. Some of our friends had also provided immediate cash relief to the three most vulnerable families in the village.
[updated on 23 April 2016]
On 30 November 2015, we delivered school uniforms to students from two schools in Bukhel, South Lalitpur: Saraswoti Primary School, Chhyasedanda Ward No. 9 and Tungan Primary School, Golchhapra Ward No. 8. We also provided 10 bundles of corrugated tin sheets and one iron gate to Tungan School. The tin sheets will be used to make temporary walls in the classroom, which were completely destroyed by the earthquake. We also partially covered the wages of carpenters and masons for repairing damaged furniture and clearing of debris.
The village was about 4 hours drive from Kathmandu (the last stretch was a rough road). Both schools are situated on hill slopes. Children (3–12 yrs) have to walk for 1–2 hrs through risky trails. To reach the schools, we had to walk uphill for an hour. The distribution program went smoothly in both the schools. Tea and snacks were provided to children, parents and school staff who came to receive the supplies.
A total of 83 sets of uniforms were provided to all students from the two schools. In the last few months, our team had made several visits to the area to identity the schools and coordinate with the locals. The local teachers and coordinators helped take the measurements of each child, and the uniforms were accordingly tailored in Kathmandu.
The teachers and locals were immensely grateful for the support. They said their village often gets neglected because it falls in Lalitpur (not far from Kathmandu), though in fact people in the area are no less deprived than communities in many remote districts. They said our team was the first to reach out to their community since the earthquake.
The total cost of the project was approximately NPR 226,000 including transport costs.
On 8 August 2015, our team travelled to Rasuwa to carry out the following activities:
- hold a meeting with local schoolteachers regarding a potential scholarship scheme for marginalised children (to be supported by Shikhsya Foundation Nepal)
- hand over stationery supplies to children at Sankhule IDP camp, Kalikasthan
- Team members Sharareh and Sunita met the local volunteers and teachers to identity a village in Rasuwa to hold art workshops for earthquake affected children and their families (under their project ArtWorks)
- observe the sites where the locals are planning to build a community primary school for marginalised children
- observe the site where the Sankhule IDP camp coordinator is planning to start a farm to generate income for the displaced families of Haku (now living in Sankhule camp)
- hand over essential field work supplies to 10 local volunteers from different villages (we were short of 7 sets of supplies, which we purchased and sent after we returned to Kathmandu)