Christian projects help Nepal's road to recovery

29 April 2016

Gideon Mendel

One year on: the photographer Gideon Mendel and Christian Aid have released a series of portraits and stories to show how “acts of kindness” helped stranded families to survive in the aftermath of the disaster

One year on: the photographer Gideon Mendel and Christian Aid have released a series of portraits and stories to show how “acts of kindness&rdqu...

THE Church in Nepal is leading the way to recovery one year after an earthquake left thousands dead and many more injured and without homes, the head of the Christian charity Tearfund, Nigel Harris, has said.

Mr Harris, who visited Nepal last month, said that it had been “very exciting” to see how church-led projects were helping communities to adapt, rebuild, and prepare for the possibility of future disasters.

“These communities being formed by the Church”, he said, “are extremely important — and where Tearfund is at its most powerful — in raising long-term issues, and making sure solutions to these are taken forward.”

Mr Harris was speaking on Monday, the anniversary of the first of two earthquakes to have devastated the country. 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 2015). A second earthquake, on 12 May last year, caused more damage, and left a further 100 people dead (News, 15 May).

Tearfund, which has been working with partners in the region for more than 40 years, reached about 150,000 survivors with food, temporary shelters, cash provision, and water supplies in the six months after the disaster.

On Tuesday, it became the first international charity to complete a new earthquake-resistant house in the remote community of Makwanpur, near Kathmandu. The house is the first of 639 earthquake-resistant homes being built by Tearfund with funding from the Disasters Emergency Committee.

It is also one of 39 “model houses” that have been adapted to suit different locations and families, and which have helped to train more than 300 new masons in the construction of earthquake-resistant homes.

It came after reports on Monday that not a single home had been rebuilt with the help of the Nepalese government, despite having received £2.9 billion from donors including the United States, the EU, and the World Bank.

Mr Harris said that the delays were due in part to the “very challenging terrain” in Nepal. “Reaching and working with extremely remote, very mountainous rural communities is extremely challenging,” he said, “particularly when roads have been damaged by the earthquake, subsequent landslips, and the monsoon season.”

Tearfund is now working closely with churches in some of the hardest-hit and most remote villages to improve road access and water hygiene, rebuild businesses and agriculture, and provide psycho-social support to survivors.

Another Christian charity, CBM UK, has been helping those injured or permanently disabled both before, and as a consequence of, the earthquakes last year.

The chief executive of CBM UK, Kirsty Smith, said that the earthquake was “devastating for all affected, but particularly for disabled people”, whose needs must be met in the ongoing recovery.

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