Nepal A Year After Deadly Quake
Apr. 25, 2016
A year after a deadly 7.8 magnitude struck in Nepal, construction delays have kept many survivors living in poor conditions.
Almost 9,000 people were killed and more than 900,000 houses were damaged or destroyed in the disaster. To mark the anniversary, people prayed for those who perished and pledged to speed up the reconstruction.
Government officials also held a memorial service in the capital, Kathmandu, ahead of Monday’s anniversary. Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli paid tribute at a site where a historic building collapsed, killing dozens of people.
"There's nothing we can do about what happened," one resident says. "I just prayed for the victims."
People lit candles and offered prayers for those lost in the disaster.
"A year has gone so quickly, it feels like just yesterday," says another resident. "It's frightening, as earthquakes are still happening. I prayed for them to stop."
The Nepalese government and officials with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA, held a special seminar on Monday.
International society and aid groups are stressing the importance of speeding up rebuilding efforts.
Daily Struggle in Camps
About 1,700 people are still forced to spend each night under canvas, at the largest of the camps for earthquake evacuees, in Kathmandu.
There were actually 2 massive tremors last April and May. They flattened cities and villages across the country, and reconstruction is only now getting started.
All told, more than 26,000 people are still forced to live outdoors.
The quality of life in the largest camp is extremely poor. People barely get by, and every day is a struggle just to survive.
“I can't sleep because I'm so hungry. Can the situation get any worse than it is right now?" says one resident there.
Mira Magar lives in the camp with her family. They lost their home and neither parent has been able to find a job yet.
And there's another problem -- education. Her son hasn't been able to go back to school because of the family's financial situation.
“My son is a quick learner, so his teacher said he should be in school," Magar says. "I do want him to receive an education, but it just isn't possible right now.”
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia, and the earthquake has shaken the very foundations of its society.
“Even sending kids to school has been difficult, as so many people lost their livelihoods after the disaster," says Tomoo Hozumi, a representative from UNICEF Nepal.
"The impact on the country as a whole was massive. It particularly hit people who were already poor or who were barely above the poverty line before the earthquake.”
But in some parts of the city, things seen almost normal. Tourists are back at Durbar Square, a World Heritage site. Although some of the historic buildings are being repaired, Nepal's recovery has a long way to go.
Infrastructure Woes in Rural Areas
Nepal's mountainous geography presents its own challenges to both getting aid to people and the rebuilding process. People in the country's remote regions are suffering in their own ways.
The worst-hit area is the Sindhupalchok District, which lies in the Himalayan foothills, about a 3-hour drive from the capital.
More than 3,500 people died here in the earthquakes. Survivors live in makeshift homes made of tin sheets that are close to useless against the cold of winter or the heat of summer.
The government has so far failed to provide people with the $1,900 it has pledged as part of a rebuilding scheme.
"A year has passed since the earthquake, but my house has not been rebuilt yet. The government says it will help us, but it hasn't done a thing," says one resident in the district. "Our lives haven't changed at all over the year."
And there are other challenges making life extremely difficult.
Gobinda Bahadur Dulal is a farmer, and his family lived on the rice and vegetables they grew. But they had to give up farming, as their water stopped running after the earthquake. They think the pipes from the source were damaged.
Now Gobinda's wife and daughter have to fetch water from a distant well. Each trip takes an hour, meaning they spend almost their entire day going back and forth for water.
"It's hard, but we have to do it to survive," says Gobinda's wife.
Gobinda says he's in debt for the first time in his life, as he needs to buy food now. He has 3 children and often wonders if the problems will ever end.
"We won't be able to live here if I can't go back to farming," he says. "It's so hard just getting water. It's difficult to raise my children without the farm."
A Japanese non-profit group providing support for Nepal is working to help solve the water problem. Staff and local people assess the situation together. The group aims to offer financial and technical support to repair infrastructure.
"When people lose access to water, they are forced to sell off their livestock or give up farming," says Yoshiko Hagiwara of Peace Winds Japan. "This means their life before the disaster is destroyed. We need to start restoring infrastructure as soon as possible."
But the organization can't start work yet, as the Nepalese government has been slow issuing the necessary approval.
People have begun to criticize the government, saying its lack of urgency is holding back reconstruction efforts.
NHK World's Roselyn Debhavalya joined anchors Aki Shibuya and Sho Beppu in the studio from Kathmandu.
Shibuya: Roselyn, why is the government so slow to act?
Debhavalya: Political squabbling has crippled Nepalese politics for years. And it’s now complicating the earthquake recovery. The National Reconstruction Authority wasn’t set up to oversee reconstruction work until last December.
Nepal was trapped in a civil war until 10 years ago. The country shifted from a monarchy to a republic 2 years later, but it took until 2015 for a constitution to be adopted. There is still confusion in politics, and many people feel the government is just not doing its job.
Beppu: What kind of help does Nepal need from the international community?
Debhavalya: In the wake of disaster, donors pledged $4.1 billion for reconstruction, but rebuilding has been delayed due to that inefficiency and political upheaval. It's essential for the international community to help the government deal with the situation, including by sharing reconstruction expertise with Nepal.
Many Nepalese were poor even before the disaster, so it's not easy for them to rebuild their lives on their own. In the absence of proper government support, people have helped each other get through the last 12 months. But, as we've seen, most have had enough.
The international community clearly needs to continue its support a little longer, while the Nepalese people wait for the country's recovery engine to finally burst into life.