In Nepal, aid groups help quake-hit families get ready for the monsoon

14 July 2015

With the onset of the monsoon season, which often brings heavy downpours, floods and landslides in Nepal, United Nations and humanitarian partners have expedited distribution of basic food items to earthquake-affected families in Sindhupalchowk, the country’s worst-hit district, east of the capital, Kathmandu.

Since June, as part of the pre-monsoon assistance to the communities affectd by the devastating 25 April earthquake, the World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with its partner organizations – Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) and Save the Children, has been distributing cooking oil, rice and lentils, which are Nepal’s staple food.

Many of the beneficiaries gathered at one of the distribution centres at the Jalbire Valley Campus — much of which has turned into rubble — told the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that the food distributed on 2 July was “the first time” they received any relief.

“I had not received anything until now,” said Nanda Maya Shrestha, 45, the mother of three who came from Simle village to receive the aid. “This is the first time I am receiving something in aid. We only got our cards [certifying their “earthquake victim” status], nothing else.”

However, others said they received some food and non-food items in the immediate aftermath of the quake that killed nearly 9,000 people in Nepal.

Nar Bahadur Khadka, 79, from Jalbire-1, who lost his house and an ox in the tragedy, said he received some rice, cooking oil and tarpaulins in the past.“It’s not only me who is the victim. It makes sense that the government was not able to reach out to all the victims at once,” he told OCHA. “Human beings never get satisfied. We already have something to cover our bodies and something to eat; we should be satisfied.”

The relief materials distributed in Jalbire village, located about 25 kilometres from the district centre of Chautara, are part of the humanitarian groups’ ongoing drive to provide food supplies to earthquake victims to cope with the monsoon that started mid-June. 

This is the second phase of distribution of WFP aid to earthquake victims in Sindhupalchowk district since the 25 April quake, and it is likely to continue until the end of July. The supplies – 26.17 metric tons of rice, 3.93 metric tons of lentils and 1.35 metric tons of cooking oil – are estimated to be enough for about 800 households for three weeks.

Aid agencies estimate that more than 2.8 million people remain in urgent need of life-saving humanitarian assistance. The humanitarian needs are expected to persist through the end of the monsoon season in August.

Most of the people gathered at the distribution centre said that shelter is the most important thing, together with food. “Unless we have a house, even the food items received cannot be stored safely,” said Shiva Kumari Nepali, 44, who was buried under the rubble of her house together with her daughter, Yamuna, for several hours after the April quake.

The chairperson of the Jalbire branch of NRCS, Ram Lal Shrestha, said although the victims have made temporary arrangements for shelter, the need remains paramount. “We are still living under constant fear. We had to run to safety only two days ago when a rock fell down from the cliff above in the middle of the night,” said Ram Lal Shrestha, stressing the need for secure shelters for the villagers.

Other key priorities, as per the humanitarian appeal, include livelihoods support, water and sanitation, and protection. Overcoming the logistical hurdles remains key to the humanitarian community’s ability to continue providing vital relief to those affected.