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Nepal: recovering from the earthquake and preparing for the next

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Written by Dominic Courage, Shelter Trainee, Humanitarian team in Nepal

Stunning landscapes but huge threats

“Nangkholang is there – this is my place.”

Jiban, the leader of the Village Development Committee, cheerfully pointed to a small settlement perched across the plunging valley.

Nagendra, the coordinator for our implementing partners, the Nepal Red Cross Society filled in some details.

A fire five years ago had created the patch of now luminous green paddy field just below the village. Cracks in the buildings on our precipitous route signposted the earthquake which, beneath the surface, had loosened soil across the mountainside.

This hidden threat became reality during this year’s monsoon as landslides streaked past the communities.

It’s little wonder that the village is keen to prepare for the next disaster.

Welcoming smiles

Smiling, resilient people

If it gets people down, it doesn’t show. All along the way, our small troop of six were welcomed out of the rain with tea, fried bread and smiles.

Laughing and smiling, the families had a comfort in each other’s company that you don’t see everywhere.

After all, at only three hours walk, this was the closest and most visited of our 60 odd projects in the area. The furthest takes three days to get to – longer of course if you’re unfortunate enough to have to carry a roof truss or a bag of cement.

Rebuilding schools

The two school block reconstructions we’re supporting were part of the extensive complex of 29 classrooms that made up Kalika Secondary School.

Ghanendra, the deputy head, told me how happy he was with the classrooms that, as head of the School Development Committee, he was responsible for building.

 

New block construction flanked by unstable slope

As well as the funding, he was grateful for the technical support we’d given him in making the buildings earthquake-resistant and stabilising the slope that he was forced to build it under.

It was heartening to see the technology being copied across the village. The masons we had trained had become hot property.

Sita, our community mobiliser

Disaster Risk Reduction

I met Sita, one of the community mobilisers who prepare train and prepare the villages for disaster alongside school reconstruction work.

Villagers are trained in first aid, search and rescue, and disaster planning. With an initial Save the Children grant, the community builds up reserves of cash and grain to prepare  for the worst.

Colourful dance

After lunch, I was given the honour of judging the Community Disaster Management Committee dance and drama competition.

Collapsing huts, burning thatch, and even live goats were brought in to try and sway the judges in dramatic interpretations of disaster response and recovery.

I was slightly bewildered as I tried to pick a winner, but in the end went for the best special effects, as well as some handy first aid.

 

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