It’s been over a year since the 2015 Nepal earthquake brought suffering and misery to one of the most deprived countries of the world. The people of Nepal had already struggled with high levels of hunger and poverty before the earthquake. One year on, and earthquake survivors continue to face obstacles. Public international solidarity and humanitarian efforts of non-governmental organizations are spearheading a sustainable reconstruction of livelihood in Nepal. When the earthquake devastated large parts of Nepal in April 2015, the country had been experiencing a constitutional and political crisis. Although joint emergency relief efforts of the government and the international community surpassed political struggle in importance in the beginning, just a few months later, political power struggles resumed and intensified the post-disaster situation in Nepal.
Amity's local partner, besides LWF Nepal, is Transformation Nepal. TFN is a non-profit, Christian, faith-based organization, which was established in 2008 in Bhaktabur. TFN is committed to empower socially excluded communities of society and cooperates with governments, non government and community based organizations at local and international levels. It focuses on promoting sustainable and holistic development through enhancing the self-help capacity of marginalized groups and communities. http://www.tfn.org.np
Two crises after the earthquake
Nepalese parties argued about the draft of a new and more federal constitution. The political struggle caused a delay in appointing a new CEO for the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), as well as the drawing up and passing of a reconstruction bill. As a result, US$4.1 billion pledged by the international community for reconstructing private houses remained unspent. During a visit in June 2015, Amity staff experienced difficulties in transporting relief materials to mountainous villages due to emerging demonstrations and protests over the constitution. Dr Prabin, director of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Nepal, explained to Amity staff that the country was facing two crises at that time. “The first is a humanitarian crisis caused by the most devastating earthquake since 1934. In addition, there is a constitutional crisis.” When the constitution was finally promulgated on 20 September, the transport of food, fuel and other goods entering Nepal in the south at the border with India was blocked. This caused delays and cost increases for relief materials and transportation. With all this happening, reconstruction of destroyed houses did not take place before the winter. The winter was particularly cold and brought more bitter hardships to the quake survivors. One year after the earthquake, many people in Nepal are still waiting for a solid public reconstruction scheme, while NGOs are continuing to work with the people on the ground, as they have been from the start.
Though emergency relief work will come to an end, the challenge of reconstruction remains
First, the Amity Foundation teamed up with its local partner LWF and distributed emergency relief supplies to provide for earthquake victims’ daily necessities. Then Amity provided live-saving supplies and material to shelter displaced people who were facing the monsoon and winter seasons. In 2015 Dr Prabin, the LWF director, expressed his hope that Amity would also support the people of Nepal in the future and be committed to be part of the enormous pending challenge of reconstruction. As a result, the Amity Foundation is now cooperating with the local grassroots NGO called 'Transforming Nepal' (TFN). After conducting need assessments in some communities, Amity started several reconstruction, livelihood and education projects.
Help for the soul - Rebuilding Bethel Church in Bhaktapur
The congregation of Bethel Church in Bhaktapur used to meet in the basement of a five-story building. The building, however, was not earthquake resistant. After the earthquake, people felt unsafe and were afraid to participate in church services there. Amity Foundation decided to support the community and to build a semi-permanent church building in order to create a safe and comfortable environment in which people could meet and worship. The new church building, which is 160 square meters in size, should last for ten years. Because Bethel Church is poor and land had to be rented, original plans for the church design were revised.
It was agreed to build a two-story building, so the land could be used more efficiently. The first floor was partitioned into eight rooms for children's fellowship, offices and space for one family who would look after the building. The redesign of the building, a shortage of electricity after the earthquake and rising prices for materials, due to the blockade on the border with India, created challenges for this project. Nevertheless, the church was finished mid-April and brought hope to a congregation, which can now continue to gather, serve the community and support one another.
Help for the living - Improving livelihoods and helping people to help themselves
During the socio-economic assessment, Amity staff talked with and interviewed many civilian and government parties to identify the needs of the communities. The staff learned that many male family members had to migrate to the cities in their search for work. These days, women are responsible for most agricultural and household tasks.
Amity staff in discussion with local communities
This dual burden, coupled with the fact that most women there lack appropriate skills for farming, raising livestock and other vocations, mean that they are under tremendous stress as they try to provide for their families. By the end of the discussions, all stakeholders agreed to improve existing local farming systems and basic infrastructures such as micro-irrigation, drinking water systems and school buildings. Amity will also provide educational materials and training for youth and women.
A project was designed, which will run from 2016 to 2017, to improve the lives of at least 150 families in two communities in the districts of Nuwakot and Bhaktapur. The project will focus on underprivileged ethnic minorities, such as Dalit and Janjat.
Particular attention will be paid to women and generally deprived families. The goals of the project are to enhance food security, empower and raise the status of vulnerable groups and increase their income and livelihood options. Using a participatory approach, Amity will work through its local partner, TFN, to provide training, technical support and micro-enterprise development. This ambitious project aims to bring substantial and measurable improvements for the whole community within the next two years.
Help for the future – Providing education for the next generation
Due to difficult living circumstances many students drop out of school
Children from poor families suffer more than most when earthquakes occur. For them, education is often the only way to strive for a better life. But poor families from the countryside are less able to recover after a disaster. Many students aged between 13 and 17 have to drop out of school in order to support their parents and reduce their parents’ burden. Leaving school, however, destroys their prospects of a better future.
Amity will support underprivileged students obtaining education opportunities
During the new academic semester in Nepal, Amity will work closely with schools and provide one-year scholarships for students who would otherwise have abandoned their studies because of poverty. A monthly organized workshop will offer them material and spiritual support. Furthermore, Amity will also encourage parents and teachers to support, advocate and provide counsel regarding their children's education. Amity will support 60 students in this program.
It is a fact that the degree of public attention on a community after a natural disasters declines very fast. But survivors, such as the people in Nepal, depend more than ever on continuing support - not to stay dependent, but in order that they may take their destiny in their own hands once again.