Supporting earthquake survivors: A report from Women Awareness Centre Nepal

When the devastating April 25 earthquake hit Nepal, taking 9000 lives and destroying almost 280,000 homes, the Women Awareness Centre Nepal (WACN) sprang into action to respond. They quickly assessed the needs on the ground in Kavre District, one of WACN’s working areas and one of the most-affected areas near the earthquake’s epicenter. The women’s groups were well placed to mobilize and distribute resources – locally available and those provided from IDEX’s* Nepal Recovery and Resilience Fund – to begin the long road of recovery.

WACN utilized 1,011,750 Nepali rupees (approximately US$9,500) from the fund for the two months following the earthquake. Below we share highlights of their report, in their words: 

1. Introduction

In [Kavre] district 367 people are dead, 1009 are injured, and 51929 houses are completely damaged and 23179 houses are partially damaged.

WACN have been working in this Kavre district since 24 years. In this district there are 24 WACN-promoted cooperatives, ranging in size from 200 to 1200 shareholders in each cooperative.

2. Relief Activities

Two days after the earthquake, from the central office in Kathmandu, WACN President Prativa Subedi, Board Member Rasmila Malla, and Account Officer Anju Ghimire headed towards Kavre District to analyze the damages that has taken place. Earthquake survivors were seeking support from the cooperative leaders. On the same day, the [WACN staff and board member] also went to meet the chief district officer to ask for the [government relief] strategies.

After that, on May 3, 2015, WACN organized a meeting with the cooperatives in Kavre district. This meeting was conducted to know the situation of all the victims as members. Through this meeting, the solutions that local people [had] to solve, to overcome their situation were also identified. We also talked about the expectations that they have from WACN. From the meeting we got the following responses:

  • All the members agreed that they have little amounts of food, but can survive [for a] few days. The emergency need for all the members was roofs, food, emergency supplies, and tents.
  • Since their houses are located in the rural areas, one of their main sources of income is livestock. Most of the households had taken loans to buy their livestock, because of that they were also asking for the relief tents to protect their animals, as similar to their [families]. If in any case one of their animals dies, they have to pay loans of one Lakh Nepali rupees.
Example of a temporary shelter built with IDEX support. Photo courtesy of Women Awareness Centre Nepal.
  • In meeting, members of WACN also proposed that one of the convenient ways to manage disaster is to minimize the interest rate for three months. WACN has been giving loans at the rate of 15% interest rate. But in order to help victim and to minimize their monetary crisis, it is decided to reduce the interest rate to 10%.

Meeting with all the members of cooperatives were very much helpful to allocate the relief materials and donations as required by the survivors of earthquake. The earthquake relief activities at different village development committees (VDC) are described briefly below:

2.1. Puranogaun VDC

WACN has three informal groups in this VDC. From the funds provided by IDEX, WACN provided 30 tents to Bal Ujjwal Secondary School in Puranogaun VDC of Kavre district. Villagers were gathered in the school for temporary shelter. As the school building was not in the condition to stay, all of them were afraid to go inside the building [and there was a] huge demand of tents from the group.

2.2. Shankhupatichaur VDC

Due to the earthquake, the people were in need of the tents as Nepal was experiencing many aftershocks and people were scared to stay inside their houses. There are in total 807 households in the area and out of which 75 of the houses are completely destroyed and cannot be stayed in. Since we could not reach out to the entire membership [of 372 people] at the moment, chairperson of Shree Sankheshowri Nari Chetana Saving and Credit Cooperative, Tulasi Maya Shrestha, helped us to select the neediest members. In this VDC, from the funds received from IDEX, we distributed 25 tents to the survivors.

WACN staff distributing tents to the Shankhupatichaur Village Development Committee. Photo courtesy of Women Awareness Centre Nepal.

2.3. Tukuchanala VDC

Due to the massive earthquake all the houses of members [928 in total] were destroyed. Members were demanding and threatening to create riot if all the members were not provided with the relief support. Since the number of members were high and WACN had a lack of resources, it was decided that in order to help all 928 members, the cooperative will lessen the loan interest from 15% to 10% for three months so that people can take loans to build their houses and other necessary developments in low interest rate. Therefore to minimize the loss that cooperative will bear in three months, WACN provided NRS 200,000 [through] IDEX.

WACN staff providing donations of 2 lakh to Tukuchanala cooperative representatives. Photo courtesy of Women Awareness Centre Nepal.

2.4. Rayale VDC

Similar to TukuchaNala VDC, in Rayale VDC, all their houses [of 90 members] were destroyed completely. To rebuild their houses they were having difficulties to take loans, therefore WACN provided NRS 100,000 to these women’s groups from the funds provided by IDEX.

2.5. Methikot VDC

Methinkot VDC is located 60 kms far from Kathmandu city. This VDC is also affected enormously by the earthquake. In this VDC just few days after the earthquake, WACN helped the earthquake survivors by providing 15 sacks of food including rice, lentils, salt, sugar, oil, nutrela, biscuits, instant noodles, and beaten rice.

2.6. Boundary wall maintenance at WACN’s central office

Due to the earthquake, all the boundary walls of WACN’s central office in Kathmandu collapsed making our office insecure and vulnerable to theft. Therefore from the fund provided by IDEX we did maintenance of one side wall of central office.

2.7. Mahadevtar VDC

When we talked with these survivors from Shree Jogeshwor IPM Farmers group about their immediate needs, it was found that they are desperate in need of temporary shelter.All the houses of these 30 group members are either destroyed or not in a condition to stay.

With the threat of monsoon season in near future, WACN decided to allocate zinc roofing sheets to all the group members of both the areas so that they can reuse these sheets while making their permanent houses as well.

From the funds received through IDEX, WACN bought 30 bundles of zinc sheets. Since there were scarcity of zinc sheets in the market, staffs of WACN were compelled to buy two different varieties of zinc sheets, which is explained below in cost details table.

2.8. Kathmandu Valley

One of the most affected district of April 25th earthquakes was Kathmandu Valley. As WACN has 6 cooperatives around Kathmandu Valley, WACN provided NRS 150,000 to Nari Chetana Multipurpose Cooperative (NCMC) in order to address the need of the earthquake affected members. NCMC also provided emergency grants to different WACN-promoted cooperatives inside the valley.

NCMC provided loan to the members in minimum interest rate so that members can take loans to build their houses and other necessary developments in low interest rate. Therefore to minimize the loss that cooperative will bear in three months, WACN has given NRS 150,000 provided by IDEX.

3. Lesson Learned

The lessons that we learned on providing the emergency relief work is as follows:

  • To provide relief support and materials in an area, then we have to make relief materials available to all the people of that area. We cannot only think about the few people or small groups. We need to distribute the relief materials to all the members.
  • It is always safe to take five to six local people while distributing materials. Survivors of earthquake are really desperate and frustrated. They can start looting anytime, and you can get yourself hurt very easily in the event. You will never have enough materials to supply to everyone. The more you stay there; you will have more people surrounding you.
  • Providing foods to the survivors was not as important as providing temporary shelters. In Nepal, people of the rural areas depend on the agriculture for their survival. Since this is also a time to harvest potatoes they can easily survive on the foods available in their fields.
Photo courtesy of Women Awareness Center Nepal.

4. Challenges

There are many challenges in relief work. Biggest challenges in doing this work are listed below:

  • Everyone wants to support to overcome this disaster. Government has also formed a committee for relief fund but the challenges are representatives of political parties. Therefore we did not go through any political parties but instead we collaborated coordinated with local committees like District Development Committee (DDC) and local people.
  • The degree of the problem is very high in comparison to the amount of relief funds that are available and supplied. Because of this, we only delivered to the limited people and vulnerable groups.
  • Under the saving schemes, there was a crisis while managing the savings and providing loans to the individuals. At the time of crisis, all members applied to get the loans which created huge problem to provide loans to all the members at the same time.
  • In many areas, cooperatives leaders themselves [had] problems. Their homes were destroyed but could not [handle] relief/support to help the members [until they were stable in their own homes and families].

5. Conclusion

When the disastrous earthquake hit Nepal, WACN urged for support to help the earthquake victims and without any formalities, IDEX gave a quick response to which we are very much thankful.

Because of the funds provided by IDEX, we were able to help many earthquake survivors in this critical situation. We had difficulties at first in few VDCs such as Tukuchanala of Kavre district in maintaining harmony among the members. However after providing the funds, we managed to bring the situation under control.

Other than that we had no disturbance and problems in providing the relief materials to the local people. People also seem to be satisfied by getting the relief materials as they were demanding and was desperate in need. WACN is very much thankful to IDEX for providing the funds to help the victims of earthquake.

 

Click here for another report from IDEX partner, ASHA Nepal, on use of the IDEX’s Nepal Recovery and Resilience Fund.

 

*Thousand Currents changed its name from IDEX in 2016

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