Documenting Nepal’s earthquake survivors


Chisapani_earthquake_SM

I passed this damaged building walking in and out of Chisapani a couple of weeks ago. The village is on the northern edge of the Kathmandu Valley, in Shivapuri National Park.

The Asia Foundation in Nepal continues doing a series of post-earthquake surveys of households whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the 2015 earthquakes.

I am impressed that more than two years after the devastation TAF continues to follow-up and I suspect that the information they’re collecting will be useful in future post-disaster situations. More than that, I hope someone at the Nepal government body responsible for earthquake recovery, the Nepal Reconstruction Authority, is reading these reports and seriously considering their recommendations.

The reports from the fourth survey (conducted in April 2016) were published in October. I wrote a short article (below) for Nepali Times that barely scratches the surface in describing the ongoing challenges.

Most of those eligible have by now received the first of three instalments of the government’s rebuilding grant. But the amount is so little – 50,000 rupees or about US$500 – and the uncertainty over receiving the second instalment so great that most people are not even using the money to rebuild.

Those who do start reconstruction are facing a shortage of skilled manpower and/or supplies, rising prices for materials and may or not be following government-approved, earthquake resistant designs.

Any good news?

Obviously the challenges are monumental, but is there any good news? At the risk of minimising the challenges, I would say yes. Once again, the earthquakes’ aftermath demonstrates that Nepalis may be the most resilient people in the world.

The latest survey revealed that peoples’ livelihoods continue to slowly recover, that fewer people are eating less than they normally would and that community cohesion remains strong. You can read more online at Nepali Times (the 2nd article on the page) or below:

Information gap slows reconstruction

Life is slowly improving for many Nepalis whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the 2015 earthquakes but there are notable exceptions and, overall, major uncertainty about the reconstruction process.

These findings are based on the fourth in a series of surveys conducted by The Asia Foundation in April 2017, which were published in October. The first round of research was done in June 2015, the second in February-March 2016 and the third in September 2016.

The 4th survey interviewed nearly 4,854 respondents in 11 earthquake-affected districts.

It found that, under the Nepal Rural Housing Reconstruction Program (NRHRP), 40% of people in earthquake-affected areas were receiving recovery or reconstruction assistance compared to just 15% in September 2016. Seventy-four percent were living in their own homes, compared to 60% right after the earthquakes.

Marginalised less likely to have returned

However, as previous surveys stressed, some groups were lagging behind. “The marginalised — low caste, low income groups, widows and the disabled — and those who live in more remote areas are more likely to remain in shelters and have found it much harder to move home,” said the report.

The document also sounded the alarm about a growing reliance on borrowing money. Between September 2016 and April 2017, borrowers — most likely to be households that had a low income before the earthquake, people of low caste or those with disabilities — took loans averaging RS363,193, a threefold increase since June 2015.

The survey also found that political parties had virtually ceased their support for rebuilding, although they were increasingly busy with elections at the local level. 59% of people in all affected districts were dissatisfied with local political parties’ assistance with disaster relief.

By April 2017, nearly all of those who were eligible for the RHRP grant had received the first instalment, the survey found. Most of them found it easy or somewhat easy to access the first tranche. However, taking the next step was more difficult for many.

Starting, then stopping

‘While reconstruction of private houses started to progress significantly in late 2016,’ the report says, ‘it had slowed down again by early 2017 due to labour shortages, high prices for construction labour and materials, high transportation costs and delays in the inspection process and the disbursement of the second instalment of the housing reconstruction grant.’

In fact, many households that received the first tranche did not, or did not plan to, use the money to rebuild. Only 37% of people said in April that they would use the grant for the intended purpose of building a new house using an approved, safe model, a drop from 44% in September 2016.

‘Households are confused about timelines and the requirements needed to receive the second instalment of the housing grant. People also lack information on procedures, requirements and technical standards, which has delayed the ability of people to take informed decisions about rebuilding,’ concludes the report.

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