Families hit by earthquake still in temporary shelter
On April 25, 2015, when an earthquake rocked his village in Nepal, Sudarshan Chepang and his family huddled inside their home as it collapsed around them. After the shaking subsided all that remained was rubble. They gathered what they could, mostly utensils, and fled outside.
Nine months later, Chepang, his wife and their two young children are still living in a temporary shelter made of salvaged materials, tarps and sheet metal. They have already endured the monsoon season, when moisture seeped in and spoiled food and bedding in some homes.
Now that it’s winter, he’s worried about what comes next.
“We know it will be cold. But where else can we go?” Chepang says. “This is the only place that we have because we cannot build a new house yet.”
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is assisting families such as the Chepangs as they await the construction of new homes. In December 2015, MCC’s partner Sansthagat Bikas Sanjal distributed blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting, tarps and jackets through local organizations to some 30 households in Bhasbhase, in Nepal’s Dhading District.
“This is very welcome, especially for our children,” says Chepang. “Now we have blankets and they will be warm.”
More than 30 districts across Nepal are still struggling with the impact of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, as well as a second quake a few weeks later. More than 8,200 people died and more than 488,000 homes were affected. Toilets and drinking water systems were heavily damaged.
In Dhading District, 59 percent of homes were totally damaged and 25 percent were partially damaged.
While the government of Nepal is promising financial support for people whose homes were destroyed, rebuilding efforts have been hampered by an ongoing political crisis and a critical fuel shortage.
Juliana Yonzon, MCC’s program coordinator in Nepal, says thousands of people will spend several more months in temporary housing, sometimes with poor sanitation facilities.
“We are worried about the impact of this on hygiene, especially for children,” Yonzon says. “As their immune systems are weakened by the cold, they can be more susceptible to pneumonia.”
Since mid-December, MCC and its partners have provided some 1,280 households with materials such as blankets and winter jackets, in the districts of Dhading, Lalitpur and Okhaldhunga.
Ultimately, the goal is to have permanent housing ready or underway before the next monsoon season in May. Working alongside local partners, MCC plans to support the most vulnerable people in four districts by helping them access government rebuilding funds. MCC also hopes to support the training of masons and carpenters to work on new housing: MCC would build model homes as examples of how earthquake resistant housing should be done, eventually donating the homes to families chosen by the community.
Yonzon says as MCC works with partners in several communities, she’s impressed with the resiliency of the Nepali people.
“Through earthquakes, fuel blockades, they still get up each morning and do what they can to earn an income, take care of their children and deal with a situation that is not ideal,” Yonzon says. “I hope that we can help them as they work together to rebuild their lives.”
—Julie Bell is a writer for MCC Canada.
View this story on MCC’s website: http://mcccanada.ca/stories/mcc-provides-blankets-warm-clothing-nepal