One month after quake, Nepal struggles to overcome trauma

One month after the April 25 earthquake that killed at least 8,700 people and injured over 70,000 in Nepal, the Himalayan nation is still struggling to overcome the trauma exacerbated by numerous aftershocks and slow relief distribution due to the difficult geographical terrain.

Kathmandu: One month after the April 25 earthquake that killed at least 8,700 people and injured over 70,000 in Nepal, the Himalayan nation is still struggling to overcome the trauma exacerbated by numerous aftershocks and slow relief distribution due to the difficult geographical terrain.

The 7.9-magnitude earthquake rattled 39 of the mountainous nation`s 75 districts -- 14 were badly hit with over half a million houses destroyed and over 300,000 houses partially damaged, according to the Red Cross.

Over 1.1 households were affected, and 17,000 people injured and undergoing treatment at various hospitals. Still, hundreds of bodies are believed to be under the rubble even in capital Kathmandu and remote Singati village of Rasuwa district.

Thousands of people who were rendered homeless continue to live in open spaces in Kathmandu and elsewhere due to fear of aftershocks while around one million people have come to Kathmandu seeking safer refuge.

Though Nepal is yet to prepare a post-disaster needs assessment, a preliminary estimate of the Nepal government shows that the quake has damaged property worth $5 billion.

For the developing nation -- which was trying to overcome the trauma of a decade-long Maoist insurgency -- recapturing an annual growth rate of 5 percent is now going to be a target hard to achieve, said the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Major sectors of Nepal`s economy like tourism, agriculture, services and real estate, among others, have been severely hit by the quake. It would take years and need billions of rupees to bring the economy back on track.

Schools and educational institutions are yet to open. The Nepal government is preparing to hold an international donor conference in July to raise $2 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The quake has taken a heavy toll on Nepal`s land composition, according to the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod). Nepal will see record numbers of landslide during this monsoon as the massive earthquake and the numerous aftershocks have badly shaken the land.

According to Icimod`s findings, 557 landslips occurred in 19 districts after the April 25 quake. Among the 19 districts, six districts are categorised as most vulnerable. Rasuwa district recorded the highest number of 160 landslides in the last one month.

Due to the lack of coordination between the state agencies and private, individual and foreign donors, and NGOs and INGOs, thousands of quake victims still remain deprived of relief material, including food and temporary shelter.

Struggling to cope with the large-scale devastation, the government has started distributing relief material but the victims say it is inadequate to meet their basic requirements. Rajendra Kumar Basnet of Salu, Ramechhap, waited patiently to get cash relief of Indian Rs.8,000 ($125 or Nepali Rs.15,000) meant for purchasing zinc sheets and other construction materials for a temporary shelter -- but to no avail.

Finally, needing a roof for his family and unable to wait anymore, he borrowed some money and procured the construction material on his own.

"I did not see the possibility of getting cash relief immediately and the various political parties are wrangling in the district over relief in district. That`s why I have started to construct a temporary shelter for my family on my own," said Basnet. His family members are safe as they were out of their home when the earthquake struck but six of his goats were buried in the rubble.

Basnet has been rendered homeless with two of his houses collapsing in the April 25 earthquake.

As part of its commitment to provide Nepali Rs.200,000 to each homeless household, the government has decided to provide Nepali Rs.15,000 as immediate cash relief so that the victims can start construction of temporary shelters before the monsoon starts.

A month after the destructive earthquake, the government has distributed food supplies and other logistics to some extent. Till date, the government has provided 53,398 quintals of rice, 153 quintals of salt, 6,454 quintals of dry food, 108,283 cases of drinking water and 323,347 sheets of tents and tarpaulins.

However, the disbursement of Nepali Rs.15,000 cash relief to the victims meant to purchase zinc sheets and other logistical material for constructing temporary shelters still remains a tall order for the government.

 

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