Nepal Earthquake Fourth Anniversary: Rescue Efforts Progress Step by Step

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Nepal, devastated by a major earthquake, is still striving for recovery, as depicted in the post-earthquake scene in Kathmandu(sources from umn.org.np).

On April 25, 2015, Nepal experienced a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6, resulting in nearly 9,000 deaths and over 800,000 houses destroyed. Nepal, already one of Asia’s poorest countries with weak infrastructure, faced a severe blow with this earthquake. Within a month after the earthquake, as the region entered the monsoon season, rescue efforts had to race against time. Lalitpur, the remote Gorkha, Nuwakot, and other severely affected areas, including the capital, Kathmandu, received emergency food, drinking water, tents, and hygiene kits distributed by Oxfam. Guides and porters, usually assisting tourists in climbing Mount Everest, became crucial in delivering relief supplies to remote mountainous regions.

A Decade of Struggle for Nepal

In the following year after the strong quake, I visited Nepal and witnessed the ongoing second phase of rescue efforts, where villagers were rebuilding roads and infrastructure. Notably, the majority of people I encountered in the villages were women. Many Nepalese men had migrated to neighboring countries for work, leaving the responsibility of managing households to women. To assist local residents in rebuilding their livelihoods and expedite community reconstruction, Oxfam, in collaboration with partner organizations, implemented the “Cash for Work” program in several disaster-affected communities. This initiative hired over 20,000 disaster survivors to work on tasks such as road construction and rebuilding irrigation systems, with a significant number being women.

When Making Bricks Wasn’t Just for Men

Oxfam’s reconstruction strategy aimed to enhance communities’ disaster resilience, enabling them to better cope with future calamities. Oxfam and its partners provided machinery and training, teaching villagers to make earthquake-resistant bricks. During my recent visit to the heavily affected Nuwakot district earlier this year, I observed bricks with interlocking designs, enhancing the structural strength of buildings. What made this more remarkable was that the bricks were made by Atimaya, a woman proud of her accomplishment. “I’ve always been a housewife and never dealt with machinery. I never thought that after completing Oxfam’s training, I could participate in the reconstruction work of the village with the brick-making team!”

From Nuwakot, about a day’s journey away, I returned to the capital, Kathmandu. Significant tourist sites were still under repair due to the severity of the post-earthquake situation. There was a high demand for carpenters, especially for crafting traditional wooden windows that are integral to Nepalese culture. This centuries-old craftsmanship was seeing a resurgence with a new batch of apprentices. Entering a workshop, the sounds of chisels striking wood echoed. Oxfam, in collaboration with local partners, organized a woodcarving class, specifically engaging female woodwork instructors to encourage women’s participation and break gender stereotypes. After completing their training, we assisted apprentices in finding outlets for selling their creations, establishing sustainable livelihoods.

Rebuilding Tourist Attractions in the City

Apart from nurturing robust timber, the high mountains also yield renowned goat wool. Passing through the market, a small shop sold scarves, clothes, and adorable felt dolls made by women participating in Oxfam’s post-earthquake livelihood reconstruction projects. Oxfam provided basic supplies such as sewing machines and tools to cooperatives, organizing members to learn skills like sewing, weaving, and accounting. The initiative empowered women to overcome poverty through their craftsmanship. To date, hundreds of women have benefited from the cooperative in the villages I visited alone, with 165 women becoming members(quotes from um).

Over these four years, with the support of the public, Oxfam has been assisting the people of Nepal in rebuilding better homes.

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