Nepal quake: A fortnight later, task of rising from ruins begins

  • Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: May 09, 2015 17:42 IST

In the coming months, quake-ravaged Nepal faces the herculean task of rising from the rubble and caring for millions who have been left without shelter and basic necessities of life.

A fortnight after the 7.9-magnitude temblor struck, killing nearly 8000, Nepal is still struggling to cope with the enormity of the disaster. Thousands await a return to normal life with access to basic necessities while figures given by the government and UN agencies paint a disturbing picture.

Over 3.5 million people are in need of food aid. The World Food Programme needs $116.5 million for its food aid programmes for the next three months.

More than 200,000 pregnant and lactating women, and 362,000 children below five years, who are suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition, are in need of nutrition support.

The quake destroyed nearly 289,000 houses and damaged more than 254,000. Till Friday, however, only 70,000 tarpaulins, 11,624 household kits and nearly 6,000 tents had been distributed.

"We can't expect people to be living in the rubble of their homes, with little food, no roof over their heads and the monsoons coming," said Richard Ragan, WFP's coordinator for relief work in Nepal.

Eighteen hydropower projects with the capacity to generate nearly 180 MW were affected, aggravating the country’s severe power crisis. It is estimated that recovery will take at least six months.

More than 3,500 schools were hit in 14 most affected districts. Nearly 22,000 classrooms were either destroyed or damaged. Toilets, boundary walls and water supply in these schools too were damaged.

"Almost one million children who were enrolled in schools before the earthquake could now find they have no school building to return to," said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF's Nepal representative.

Most Nepali households rely on agriculture and livestock for their livelihood. The quake damaged 92,000 metric tons of food stocks, 59,000 livestock and 630,000 heads of poultry died in the most affected districts.

Besides food, medicines, tents and other relief materials, Nepal needs large sums of money to provide relief to the nearly 8 million affected and start the process of rebuilding.

Till Friday, barely 10% of UN's revised funding appeal of $423 million had been received from countries and donor agencies. The additional sum of $380 million is urgently needed to scale up relief efforts.

Monetary donations from within Nepal have not been encouraging. The Prime Minister's Relief Fund received just $6.75 million till Friday. Estimates say Nepal needs anywhere between $5 and $10 billion for reconstruction.

"I appeal to all Nepalis, friendly nations, international donor agencies and NGOs to support us with open hearts," Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told parliament on Friday.

Before the quake struck, Nepal's fractured political parties were struggling to draft a new constitution. It is one of the poorest countries, with nearly a quarter of its population of 26.6 million living in poverty and nearly 4.5 million undernourished.

Some feel the disaster, which saw millions of Nepalis come together to take part in rescue and relief efforts, could prove to be the unifying factor that will lead to a new Nepal.

"A disaster of this scale can sometimes be a blessing in disguise by bringing people together, reinforcing national unity, promoting harmony and goodwill among societies and enhancing feelings of nationality," Nepal's top bureaucrat Leela Mani Paudyal wrote in Saturday's Republica daily.


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