A family rebuilds after the earthquake in Nepal

In the aftermath of two devastating earthquakes in Nepal, a long-time UN Women NGO partner is supporting vulnerable families in rural areas not often reached by humanitarian assistance and providing more than 5,400 households with much-needed aid.

Date: Thursday, May 14, 2015

As the fateful earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April, 22-year-old Shanta Tamang went into labour. Shanta’s mother managed to find a local taxi and rushed her to the nearest hospital. The next day, baby Rehan was born. Shanta and her baby went home in an ambulance the following day.

Instead of the joy of a mother coming home to celebrate the event, Shanta and Rehan joined their family of 12 in a small makeshift shelter. The family, including her grandmother, 18-year-old sister-in-law Kopila and her baby, their respective husbands and other children, all sleep on one mat. The floor and back wall is a dirt bank, the roof is the sum of some corrugated sheets and the front, just a piece of blue tarpaulin, open to the elements. The only light is a tiny oil lamp, sitting in a niche dug into the dirt wall. Shanta’s situation is not unique, and many in her community are facing similar conditions after the earthquake.

A mother and her newborn baby, together with their family of 12 share this desperate tiny shelter, after their home and all belongings were destroyed by a massive earthquake. Photo: UN Women/Piyavit Thongsa-Ard
A mother and her newborn baby, together with their family of 12 share this desperate tiny shelter, after their home and all belongings were destroyed by a massive earthquake. Photo: UN Women/Piyavit Thongsa-Ard

This family of traditional farmers, has worked on the land and over the years created beautiful flat terraces from what once was sheer hillside, allowing them to access the land, and grow their crops.

Their home located in Dakshinkali, an agricultural region on the ridgeline of the high hills just outside of Kathmandu City, was completely destroyed by the earthquake, and everything they owned is now gone. The men in the family farmed the land around the house, and usually managed to get by, but still it was a hand-to-mouth existence, with no chance of saving money, not even to buy a blanket or soap.

This shelter is the best they could make from what they could find around them. The nearest water source is 15 minutes’ walk away, and has to be carried back in containers, held inside traditional baskets. Shanta, with her new baby, joins her 18-year-old sister-in-law Kopila Tamang, who herself has a 5-month-old baby, Jivan. Two young mothers who are barely able to care for themselves, or their babies, are now facing even greater hardships. 

The sanitary conditions are dangerous. The family toilet was also destroyed at the same time as their home. Their latrine is now an open field. The babies, young children, and elderly grandmother are most vulnerable to sickness as a result.

This family was discovered facing these harsh conditions by Pourakhi, an NGO set up with assistance from UN Women’s predecessor organization in 2003. With members working at the grass-roots level with women and in communities across Nepal, the organization’s founder directed Pourakhi members to scour the region to identify women, young babies and the elderly – who may face higher risks as a result of the earthquake, due to their social condition, illness and poverty.
  
A Pourakhi member located Shanta’s family, identified them as needing urgent help, and provided assistance.

Pourakhi is distributing urgently needed aid such as tents, mats, blankets and dry food such as rice and noodles. So far, the UN Women partner has reached out to more than 5,400 households in the four hardest-hit districts.

Related links:

Restoring dignity: Women mobilize relief efforts in Nepal

UN Women to address gender-based violence in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal

Flickr images of the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal

Pourakhi: Supporting women workers towards a safer migration journey