Vulnerable: Many Nepalis are living in makeshift shelters like this. Image: Grassroots News.
Seven weeks after Nepal’s shattering earthquakes, the struggling nation is now fearing a new disaster: monsoon season.
The heavy seasonal rains, which start around June each year and have just begun, invariably cause landslides in the mountainous regions. And this year, with hundreds of thousands of mountain-dwellers rendered homeless by the quakes, people are living in suspense and even more vulnerable to landslide inundation – and isolation.
At least 21 people have been killed already after landslides on Wednesday in some remote villages in Nepal’s eastern region, according to a New York Times report. The looming rains also bring the threat of waterborne diseases – such as diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid, gastroenteritis and cholera. One man living in one of many tent villages has told Grassroots News that he feared for the safety of his community.
“This camp is not going to be safe from monsoon season, we know it,” he said.
Landslides A Major Danger To Nepali Villagers
Precarious: Many villages in Nepal are on mountainsides like this. Picture: INF
Matt Darvas, an Australian working in Nepal with organisations like the International Nepali Fellowship (INF) and World Vision, told Hope Media that landslides were a great threat.
“There’s basically no protection from the landslides,” he said. “There are still thousands of people living in shelters in very basic tents and tarpaulins, and shelters constructed from the debris of their homes. Other people, who are too poor and too tired of living outside, have moved back into buildings with large cracks, which is very dangerous.
“Typically the areas that were struck by the earthquake are very prone to landslides every year during the monsoon. Now that large cracks and fissures have opened up in these mountainous areas, the risk of landslides is even higher.
“The landslides are of such a scale that we’ve been in places where the villagers have pointed across to another side of the valley, and you’ll see a whole section of earth has shifted, 400 metres wide, and they’ll say ‘there used to be a village there’. Two hundred to three hundred people can be buried in the blink of an eye. People risk their lives simply by living in these places and they live there because there are no other choices.”
Mr Darvas said landslides also hampered the efforts of emergency response teams.
Sunjuli Singh Kunwar, a Nepalese woman who works in Nepal as a World Vision communications specialist, told Hope Media that much work was being done to build durable shelters of corrugated iron.
“The main need is still shelter because most houses have been damaged and it will take time to rebuild properly,” she said. She said food and nutrition were also a concern because peoples’ food stores such as rice and corn, may be damaged by rain. We need people to put food in storage. They still have so much food stock in their broken houses.”
Lives And Safety Of Nepali Children Under Threat
Another threat in Nepal at the moment is child trafficking, as the normal protections of family and school routines have been disrupted. Ms Singh Kunwar said World Vision was working to combat this threat.
“Because we are a child focussed organisation we are focussing on child protection issues and schools,” she said. “We have built temporary learning shelters to accommodate children in tents and tarpaulins, and 20 child friendly spaces where around 2200 children are attending. These are places where children come and spend the day with World Vision volunteers. They play, they draw, they sing, they dance.
“This is psychosocial support we are giving, so they can forget the trauma they had in the earthquake and be with their own peer group, under our guidance. They are much safer than being outside in the open.”
“And now we are trying to push them to a more formal education to go back to school in temporary shelters.”
She said while many children had been orphaned, the communal nature of Nepalese life meant they had been taken in by other families.
“We have a very communal society where everybody knows everyone, and we try to help each other,” she said.
According to UNICEF, the education of over 1 million children has been compromised by the earthquake.
Matt Darvas said that in Gorkha District, where the earthquake centred, around 80 percent of government schools had been destroyed and 20 percent damaged.
“It’s a very difficult time to do rebuilding work because of high temperatures and humidity, so the INF is building temporary structures for schools using tin sheets and iron rods.”
Funds Needed To Continue Emergency Relief
Mr Darvas said the best thing people in the west could do at the moment was to donate to trusted, established organisations.
“Funds are the best way people can help right now,” he said. “The long term development work of the INF is to empower local people and to use local resources. But in a post-disaster situation when local resources have been largely destroyed and peoples’ livelihoods have been stripped away, they actually do need outside assistance. So the giving of finances is a very important part of that. People have to select the right organisation so their money is used well.
“The INF, with its long-standing history in the country, is very well positioned to act well with those funds and get them to the best people. World Vision is the same – they have already worked to assist over 50,000 people, with a target to reach 100,000. And they are working broadly across the whole country with a special focus on children too.”
How You Can Help Nepal
To help the relief efforts in Nepal, you can:
– Support World Vision’s earthquake appeal
– Donate to the International Nepal Fellowship’s earthquake appeal
– Pray, and join in the International Nepal Fellowship’s prayer appeal