Everyone who was in Nepal on 25 April 2015 will remember that feeling – the horror of the solid ground beneath you rolling like surf, cries of fear, buildings crumbling, clouds of choking dust, the shock and the confusion that followed.
For villagers near the epicentre, the experience was even more deadly. In some communities, most of the houses were reduced to rubble, the few possessions of families already very poor buried and destroyed, food stocks and precious animals lost, and in some cases, family members lost too.
The United Mission to Nepal has been working in Dhading, one of the most affected districts, for more than 20 years. We have strong relationships there, competent local partners, and a track record of working with the poorest and most disadvantaged. So it made sense to focus our relief activities there, in three Village Development Committee areas (VDCs) in the south and four in the rugged, mountainous north.
The challenges were many. The northern VDCs have little or no road access at the best of times – just narrow walking trails snaking through the Himalayas, crossing steep gullies via sinuous suspension bridges. Landslides and rockfalls made the trails virtually impassable, and broke or damaged the bridges. Getting relief to the villages in the north meant negotiating access to scarce helicopter transport, or long, dangerous road journeys to drop-off points to which affected families walked, sometimes for days. UMN and its partners managed to distribute comprehensive relief packages to more than 12,000 desperate families.
Now the work of reconstruction is beginning. Over the next two years, UMN will be providing training and assistance to communities so that the new houses built will be more earthquake resistant; we'll be providing temporary buildings for schools, repairing damaged water systems and toilets, restoring livelihoods through seed and tool distributions and replacement livestock, training people in disaster preparedness, and helping deal with the psycho-social impacts through trauma counseling groups.
There are huge challenges ahead. Thank you for your prayers and support – they are much needed, and much appreciated!
Lyn Jackson is Communications Director at UMN.