We have not recovered yet, says Dean of Nepal

31 July 2015

KIRSTY SMITH/CBM

100 days later: earthquake damage in Nepal is cleared in an effort to restore normal life

100 days later: earthquake damage in Nepal is cleared in an effort to restore normal life

NEPAL is still decades away from full recovery, nearly 100 days after an earthquake left thousands dead and many more injured and without homes, the country’s most senior Anglican cleric, the Dean of Nepal, the Very Revd Lewis Lew, said this week.

“Three months after the quake hit,” he said, “it would be presumptuous to say that life is back to normal in Nepal, because things are never the same again for most Nepalese since the fateful day.

“Nepal has lost more than 530,000 buildings, and 4300 schools. The task to rebuild homes, community, and country is a mammoth one, that requires selfless sacrifice and strong unity at all levels.”

More than 8000 people lost their lives, and 14,000 were injured in the worst natural disaster to hit Nepal in 80 years (News, 24 April). A second earthquake, on 12 May, caused more damage, and left a further 100 people dead (News, 15 May).

Dean Lew urged the world not to forget. “We have been swamped and swiped away by so many global issues in the last few months. . . . My prayer and hope is that international groups will intensify their support for the rebuilding work in Nepal.”

Thousands of victims, many in the hardest hit and most remote areas, have been given food, shelter, and spiritual care by the Church Mission Society (CMS) since the earthquake struck on the morning of 25 April.

A CMS partner, the National Mission Commission of Nepal, has been co-ordinating the distribution of relief in the region. Its founder, Ram Prasad Shrestha, said: “The Lord has opened so many windows of opportunity to meet and serve different kinds of people. Earthquake victims are opening their arms, welcoming our help.”

Hospitals, rehabilitation, and mental-health services are continuing to feel the strain, however. The chief executive of the overseas Christian disability charity CMB UK, Kirsty Smith, said: “It’s easy to imagine the disaster on the day it happens: we see on the news the devastation of the buildings, and the lack of water and food. What is more difficult to understand is the impact that goes on for weeks, months, and years.”

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CBM emergency-response specialists, partner organisations, and Nepalese staff have been working together to provide emergency relief and medical care for villagers since the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck, 81 kilometres north-west of Kathmandu.

More than 12,000 Nepalese are living with injuries or disabilities. Rash Bahadur Gurung was cutting bamboo outside his house when the earthquake started. His baby son, who was sleeping indoors, was killed when the house collapsed. Mr Gurung broke his back in an attempt to save him.

“Rash is now learning to use a wheelchair,” Ms Smith said. “He will probably spend six months in hospital, and the future is very uncertain. He was a farmer, and now he has to find a new livelihood.”

The psychological effects of the disaster are continuing to be felt. Every day, CBM’s partner KOSHISH, which has been providing community mental-health services in the area since 2008, is reporting new cases of people who are struggling to come to terms with what happened. KOSHISH is recruiting additional psychologists and counsellors, and expects to support 3500 more survivors in the coming month.

“The second earthquake occurred about the time people were more confident to go back into their homes, back to work and school,” Ms Smith said. “Many children are too anxious to leave their parents or too sleep-deprived to function well.”

CBM is also helping to relocate people who were already living with disabilities when the earthquake struck, and destroyed homes that had been adapted to their needs. Thousands of houses were destroyed or damaged in the earthquake, and hundreds more collapsed in the second wave.

The Christian international development charity Habitat for Humanity Great Britain has distributed more than 2000 shelter kits to people who lost homes and possessions. The long-term projects are just beginning.

A spokesperson for the charity, Lani Charlwood, said: “The devastation is absolutely vast, and full recovery will take years. Sadly, as soon as the disaster is out of the headlines, it is out of sight, out of mind; yet there are still people, particularly in the very remote regions, who are still waiting for even the temporary shelter kits.

“Our focus now is on permanent re-building, on sustainability, and resilience to future disasters.”

Habitat is planning to build 100 homes in the Asia Pacific region of Kavre as a demonstration of a “complete community revitalisation”, and how that can be achieved.

Volunteers are also training villagers to carry out safety assessments on surviving houses. This process was expected to take up to five years, Ms Charlwood said. Building permanent homes would take decades, owing in part to the monsoon season, which began when the second earthquake struck in May.

“Our goal is to bring normalcy back: to teach people how to rebuild or repair their own homes so they have somewhere to store their food and any possessions they have left, however long it takes,” Ms Charlwood said.

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