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May 8, 2015

Lack of water, toilets making things worse for women in Nepal

Nisha   /   Nisha Agrawal

Nepal emergency response: Oxfam India

It has now been over 12 days when Nepal was devastated by a massive earthquake. The death toll has crossed 7600 and is still rising. Thousands more are severely injured.

Oxfam is on the ground and is providing relief supplies. A team of Oxfam from India has set up base in Gorkha district, which is one of the worst affected.

As I travel to the remote areas of Gorkha districtand visit small, scattered and mountainous villages, the true face of the destruction by the earthquake emerges.

Deragaon under the Phinam village development committee (VDC) has two clusters – Muslim basti and Dalit basti.

The Muslim cluster -- one of the few Muslim villages in the country -- housing 76 families, has been left in ruins. Of the 76 houses in the village, some of have collapsed completely and the remaining have been damaged to the extent of rebuilding from scrap.

Access to relief supplies is a big challenge for all remote regions in Nepal. But Oxfam is making sure remote villages in Gorkha district and members of all communities get relief materials.   

Most of the houses in the village are partially or completely collapsed.

Most of the houses in the village are partially or completely collapsed.

Water pipes are broken, toilets are broken, schools are gone. Any resemblance to a normal village was completely gone.

Oxfam is providing tarpaulin sheets, hygiene kits and water to 13 of the 77 villages in Gorkha district. Relief materials are being bought in India and transported through a land route to the district.

Oxfam’s team in Gorkha distributing relief supplies

Oxfam’s team in Gorkha distributing relief supplies

Monsoons will add the woes

But people in the villages want transitional shelters to withstand the monsoons, expected to arrive next month.

For those three months of monsoon, the tarpaulin sheets will not be enough. Communities need corrugated metal roofing sheets, which will give them cover from the harsh rains. We are thinking of buying these metal sheets and provide them to the community.

For Oxfam this earthquake and the relief work in Nepal presents a whole new set of challenges – the tough terrain, communities are remote, difficult to access, badly devastated and with the monsoons coming.

No access to water and toilets

Water is a big problem, especially for women. All the pipes in the village, which supplied water for drinking, washing and bathing are no longer functional. Toilets is also a big issue. All the toilets have been completely destroyed and there are serious safety concerns. Women are forced to look for private spaces in the open.

Toilets in the district have been destroyed

Toilets in the district have been destroyed

A woman and child in the Dalit cluster of VDC Phinam.

A woman and child in the Dalit cluster of VDC Phinam.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been distributing food in villages that can be accessed through roads. In more remote regions, food is being dropped through helicopters.

Oxfam is working with a partner in Gorkha district. That has helped in the distribution of relief materials because the partner has been working in that area for many years. The partner has been working in five of the 13 villages Oxfam is responding to in Nepal. But we want to extend their support to all 13 villages. The support of our partner and local volunteers has really boosted the distribution process as they know the local language and the community.

The tremors are not yet over

In my interaction with the local community, I met a man who worked in Qatar. He rushed to Nepal, to his home in Gorkha district, after hearing about the earthquake.

“My house is gone. Me and my family are sleeping in the open. It will now take another 10 years to rebuild my house. All my life savings were spent on making this house. I cannot leave  my family and return to my job in Qatar,” he said.

It will take me another 10 years to rebuild my house, said this man working in Qatar.

It will take me another 10 years to rebuild my house, said this man working in Qatar.

Another moving thing to see was the children running around in the village, because the school  building has collapsed and I asked one of the children – Why don’t you go back to school? And he replied “I will go back to school, when the earthquake stops”.

There have been over 100 aftershocks, following the April 25 quake. The tremors are coming everyday. Today there was a tremor, yesterday there was a tremor. For the locals the earthquake has not stopped.

The road ahead

Oxfam is in Nepal for the long haul and it will take a lot of time and effort to rebuild the country.  "Of the requested US$415 million to support immediate humanitarian interventions, only US$22.4 million was received. This needs to be dramatically ramped up," McGoldrick, the UN Resident Coordinator for Nepal told reporters in the capital Kathmandu.

People in rural Nepal have no savingsleft, their whole life’s savings have been wiped out. There are no schools, no infrastructure, no housing, no assets and it’s very hard to imagine a scene like this.

We need to help rebuild Nepal together. 


Written by Nisha Agrawal, CEO, Oxfam India

Photo credits: Nisha Agrawal, CEO, Oxfam India





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