For a country like Nepal where many communities were already struggling under the burden of poverty, the events of last year were truly devastating.
The earthquake that struck on 25 April 2015 and the following aftershocks and earthquake on 12 May killed nearly 9,000 people. Many thousands were injured and over half a million homes were completely destroyed, along with schools, hospitals and government buildings.
The International Nepal Fellowship (INF) has been working in Nepal for over 60 years and is focused on long-term development and specialist medical work. Within two days of the first earthquake, a small medical team travelled out to Gorkha district, treating around 450 injured people.
In the critical first few weeks and months, over 3,500 households received emergency food packs. Tents, blankets and shelter supplies were also provided, along with over 2,000 hygiene packs.
Working together has been a really important theme of the last year. INF/UK has been supporting a number of partners, including a networks of churches who have distributed thousands more packages of aid, as well as a local organisation doing excellent work in trauma counselling.
Travel in rural Nepal is difficult at the best of times, but further landslides and the arrival of monsoon season made it even harder to reach affected communities. Trucks had to be pushed out of the mud, and it took nearly a week of travelling to reach some of the more remote areas.
The fuel crisis was a further obstacle. This was caused by a blockade along the Indian border, created by protesters from different ethnic groups who disagreed with the proposed new Constitution.
Prices of much-needed items like metal sheeting increased dramatically and in some cases, teams from local churches had to go from shop to shop purchasing goods individually. Though the border has now re-opened, the effect on Nepal’s economy has been devastating.
Amongst the sadness and the difficulty, there have also been many stories of hope and opportunity. Immediately after the earthquake, as well in response to landslides or other disasters since, the local churches in Pokhara mobilised hundreds of volunteers to help those in need.
It has been a great opportunity for Christians to demonstrate God’s love in practical ways. The fact that people received good quality clothing and food, rather than poor quality or second-hand items, left a real impression with families who felt like they were valued and not forgotten.
You Christians don’t just talk about it, you actually do it!
The proactive response of churches has also impressed government officials, some of whom commented 'You Christians don’t just talk about it, you actually do it!' In a country like Nepal where it can be difficult for Christians to live out their faith, this has been an encouraging step.
Helping communities recover
After the critical first few weeks, it was important to help families try to get back to a sense of normality. INF has built 115 temporary schools, enabling hundreds of children to continue in their education. For families whose entire lives have been disrupted, the chance for children to return to school and regain a sense of routine has been an important first step in their recovery process.
In Gorkha district, up to 90% of all health posts were destroyed or damaged by the earthquake. We have been able to build the first health post in the whole of Gorkha district and hand it over to the government – a joyous occasion for the whole community. The new building isn’t just a replacement of the one before; it includes a new birthing centre, so women who go into labour at night time can get the care they need in their village, rather than having to be carried over the hills to the nearest hospital.
The challenges for Nepal continue. Houses are yet to be rebuilt, due to delays in the release of new building plans and policies. Many people also now face life with a disability and we are responding with a new project to help them get the specialist support they need. INF is also currently fundraising to build and equip another new health post in Amppipal.
For more information visit INF.org.uk