The Nepal Earthquake Six Months On: What needs to happen now? | Oxfam

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On 25 April 2015, Nepal was struck by a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake that left nearly 9,000 people dead and destroyed or damaged more than 850,000 homes. Many of the affected people have received some support from the Government of Nepal and aid organizations, but others are still waiting for assistance. The government’s response has been beset by delays, and for the past month the country has been in the grip of a fuel crisis. As well as destroying and damaging homes, the earthquake also severely impacted employment, and six months on many are still struggling to find work, while those who do often report that their incomes are below pre-earthquake levels. Women, children, the elderly, ethnic minorities, those disadvantaged by the caste system and people living with disabilities have all been disproportionately affected by the earthquake and its aftermath. The problem of landlessness, widespread before the quake, has also worsened. As winter approaches, the situation needs to be urgently addressed and recovery and reconstruction put back on track. This joint-agency media briefing summarizes the current situation and the challenges to be overcome as the effort continues. 
    MEDIA BRIEFING 25 October 2015 The Nepal Earthquake Six Months On: What needs to happen now? Background It is six months since the 7.6 magnitude Gorkha earthquake destroyed more than half a million houses and affected more than eight million people in Nepal.  1  It left close to 9,000 people dead, and over 100,000 people were displaced.  2  But the people of Nepal have shown remarkable resilience and have started to rebuild their homes and their lives.  A month after the earthquake, the Government of Nepal set up the National Reconstruction  Authority (NRA) and conducted a post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA) in order to begin the recovery process as soon as possible. This process, however, has so far been plagued with delays due to the absence of a legally-mandated NRA and a fuel crisis that has crippled the nation for almost a month now. The result: confusion about reconstruction plans, and delays in delivering critical humanitarian support and services to affected communities. This situation needs to be urgently addressed and recovery and reconstruction put back on track through the passage of an urgent bill that would reinstate the NRA, as well as addressing other barriers to the effective delivery of much needed humanitarian support before winter sets in. Rebuilding homes and preparing for winter Rebuilding more than 850,000 totally destroyed and damaged houses across a wide geographical area involves a massive recovery effort and requires policies and systems to achieve scale in social mobilization, training, information, financing materials and quality assurance. 3  The government planned to provide a cash grant of NPR 15, 000 ($150) to all families whose houses were fully damaged by the earthquake. Many humanitarian and development organizations are also providing Corrugated Galvanized Iron (CGI) sheets to the affected families. A recent survey done by the UN Shelter Cluster showed that only 62 percent of affected families had received government cash assistance for shelter support and only 43 percent had received CGI sheets. 4    Surviving in a CGI shelter throughout the upcoming winter – starting in November – will be difficult for families, especially for the elderly; children and new born babies; and pregnant and lactating mothers. A study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) showed that 138,000 of the female population in Nepal are, or will be, pregnant in the next 12 months, and living across 14 of the most affected districts. 5  Many of the areas that these women are living in are at high altitude (over 1,000m above sea level) where the average minimum temperature in the winter months falls below zero degrees centigrade. Moreover, 90 percent of respondents to the Shelter Cluster survey that was conducted with 19 Village Development Committees (VDCs) living at an altitude of between 750m and 3,000m said that they have inadequate resources to survive winter. To date, 58,690 people continue to live in 120 displacement sites across 13 districts, 6  and it is estimated that 81,000 households are in need of support to survive the winter season. 7   The story of Ganga Parajuli Ganga Parajuli, 35, is a woman from Bhaktapur district who is landless. Ganga and her family have been living as informal settlers for as long as she can remember. She has lived her whole life without the facilities and privileges that come with having a land ownership certificate. Ganga worries that this situation may not change, even for her children. Ganga used to work at a hotel as a housekeeper in Telkot, while her husband worked as a wage worker. She is currently living in a temporary shelter after her house on a relative’s land was destroyed by the devastating earthquake that struck six months back on 25 April 2015. The hotel where she used to work was also damaged by the earthquake, and she became jobless. ‘[The] earthquake made us homeless and jobless. We had built a small house but the earthquake destroyed it. All that’s left is the remains of our house and debt that we took to construct it.’ ‘We received NPR 15,000 from the government and utilized it to buy medicines for our son and make the temporary shelter. It would be much better if we instead received a small piece of land from the government’. Ganga Parajuli (October 2015). Photo: Roshani Kapali/Oxfam  Reviving livelihoods and food security The Gorkha earthquake affected the livelihoods of 2.29 million households and 5.6 million workers across 31 districts, of which 51 percent were women. This has resulted in the loss of 94 million work   days and NPR 17bn of personal income in the 2015–2016 financial year. 8   Around   one million smallholder farmers, across 24 districts, and women and elderly-headed farm households have suffered the most. 9  Likewise, nearly 3.5 million people   were considered vulnerable with immediate food needs, out of which 1.4 million people were considered highly vulnerable and requiring immediate food assistance. 10  According to the July 2015 report of the Nepal Food Security Monitoring System (NeKSAP), 529,000 people across 233 VDCs in 11 districts remain ‘highly’ and ‘severely’ food insecure 11 . Daily wage earners have also suffered a great deal after the earthquake. Many of them ran out of work as there was a drastic shortfall after the earthquake. Even after five months, many complain that their earnings remain inadequate and lower than before the earthquake. In order to support daily wage workers, humanitarian and development organizations have supported 1.29 million people through programmes that have covered debris management and safe demolition; community infrastructure and livelihood recovery; and restoration of critical local services. 12  Food security and livelihoods work needs to transition now from relief to resilience. Livelihoods must be strengthened so that they are less vulnerable to the range of shocks faced, including floods, landslides, and droughts. Inclusive reconstruction and recovery Women, children and the elderly, as well as people living with disabilities and other ethnic and caste-based minorities, were disproportionally affected by the earthquake. Inequality, exclusion and discrimination against these social groups have not only shaped who has died as a result of the earthquake, but also determined their capacity to cope with and respond effectively to the disaster. 13  More than half of those who perished were women and girls. 14  Various civil society and international non-government organizations are working to address the needs of women, particularly targeting female-headed households. More than 23,000 female-headed households benefitted from debris removal and rehabilitation of community infrastructure. Meanwhile, almost 10,000 women and girls have accessed female-friendly spaces and 21,200 women received dignity kits. 15   However, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) is of particular concern in temporary settlement sites, with   incidents reported in Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Dolakha. 16  Trafficking of young women and girls has been on the rise, as women are forced to seek other sources of income to support their families. 17  Similarly, a narrow asset base, the burden of domestic work and limited access to economic resources, combined with the   lack of alternative livelihoods and limited ownership of land, will significantly hinder recovery of women compared to men, who have more livelihoods options. However, women’s dominance in the agricultural and informal   sectors and their unique capacity to drive resilience building of communities can play a crucial role in the recovery and rebuilding if supported appropriately. 18    Landlessness  About 25 percent of the population is landless in Nepal. 19  Some were landless before the earthquake and were living in rented houses; others became landless as a result of the earthquake and subsequent landslides. The story of Kamala Khadka Kamala Khadka is 26 years old and living in Lalitpur district, Nepal. She lives with her husband and their four year old son. Kamala is landless. Her family was allowed to live in a house on some landowner’s land as she was working in his fields. Her husband works as a decorator. The earthquake destroyed the house that they lived in along with the grain they were storing. They managed to construct a corrugated iron shelter on the landowner’s land, but they had to pay rent to him as Kamala could no longer work as she had to take care of her son who has been sick since the earthquake. The landowner now says that he wants the land back in a few months, and Kamala and her family will have nowhere to go. Her husband’s work has also dried up, as fewer people want decorating since the earthquake. Kamala said that her family had not yet received any support from any organization. They did not receive the srcinal financial support from the government because they did not have their own house to claim for the compensation. The government has agreed to secure public land and make it available for more permanent and safe settlement sites. However, plans for this are yet to be finalised and guidelines disseminated. In the meantime, people are still living in temporary settlements. Without land they have limited access to support, as documentation or proof of ownership is needed to claim. With temporary settlements closing, these people may be forced into more vulnerable situations. ‘We have not received any support from the government. The government discriminate against us because we are landless. We are landless but we are also victims.’ Kamala Khadka, October 2015. Photo: Roshani Kapali/Oxfam
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