It’s been four years since communities in Nepal were devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The disaster—which was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks—claimed nearly 9,000 lives and damaged or destroyed more than 800,000 homes.
Thanks to generous donations received in the quake’s aftermath, the American Red Cross is still on the ground, working alongside the Nepal Red Cross to address the disaster’s far-reaching effects, such as collapsed houses, broken water and sanitation systems, and lost sources of income. Recovering from such a tragedy takes time, but families are determined to rebuild their lives and their communities with hope for the future.
Restocking Health Centers
Nurse midwife, Gyani Pathak, works at a birthing center in Chaturale, Nepal. For women in this small village, traveling to a large hospital to give birth is costly and often impossible under the time constraints. Given these challenges, Gyani decided to devote her life to keeping pregnant women and their babies in Chaturale safe.
When the earthquake struck in 2015, Chaturale—and its birthing center—felt the brunt of the disaster. The American Red Cross was able to step in to help: donating 36 pieces of medical equipment to the center after the quake. Gyani explains that she and her colleagues used the equipment to save a baby’s life just a week after it was installed.
“Our goal is for women to give birth in a medical facility, rather than at home. This equipment boosts the confidence of expectant mothers and gives peace of mind to health workers, who know they can handle complicated births now,” says Gyani.
Thirty-four health posts and outreach clinics have received equipment and supplies from the American Red Cross in the earthquake’s aftermath. This contribution complements other Red Cross health interventions—such as training hundreds of volunteers on first aid, equipping them with first aid kits, and ensuring children in 18 villages receive all their routine immunizations. Watch a baby and his mother on their way to a health clinic here.
Maina Singh and his wife, Pasang Tamang, are light-hearted in their interactions with one another, but the couple has survived deep pain. When an earthquake struck Nepal four years ago, their home collapsed, killing their 16-year-old daughter.
Devastated, Maina resolved not to let the sorrow overtake him. Instead, he is driven to improve the safety of houses in his community and empower others to do the same. “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring; so I try to make a positive change here today,” he says.
Maina had a basic understanding of construction all his life, but never considered himself an expert. When Red Cross volunteer, Hira, visited his family in the earthquake’s aftermath, she encouraged him to sign up for an intensive course on safe building techniques.
“[Red Cross volunteer] Hira has been a big factor in all of this. She came to tell me about the opportunities and encouraged me to do the mason training. I am not educated, so the fact that someone visited and took my name and recognized the skills I had could be useful. I am grateful for that,” recalls Maina.
He took the mason course—funded by the Red Cross—and has thrived. He led a team of people to rebuild homes in his community destroyed by the quake. Maina and his team earned income while ensuring the well-being of their neighbors through safe building techniques, such as keeping a two-foot minimum between windows and doors; using double rebar; and placing lintels above and below window frames.
“There is a big change in our way of doing things now. Before, we had a ‘make due’ attitude, but now we do it right. We always have to be open to new ideas. Red Cross brought new ideas to our town,” Maina says in earnest.
As he rebuilt neighbors’ homes, he’s made time to work on his own, as well: constructing a stone and cement structure to house him and his extended family. Maina consulted with Red Cross-funded engineers on the design and—like everyone else rebuilding houses in Kaule—received funds from Red Cross and technical assistance from the non-profit Build Change. The guidance follows the Nepal government’s guidelines for reconstruction.
Maina is a true mentor for other community members because he empowers them to help themselves. “I am training a lot of people around town on safe building techniques. I let them make mistakes on my own house and then fix their mistakes, so they can learn. They’re really growing and can soon advise other neighbors.”
Maina believes deeply in the techniques he learned in the mason training and never loses sight of his personal connection to the subject. “If these skills and designs had come before, we could have run and wouldn’t have lost our daughter.”
The American Red Cross trained and certified 1,000+ masons to lead safe home reconstruction and has helped fund the reconstruction or repair of nearly 3,000 homes and 3,500 household-level toilets.
Recuperating the Land
Luk Maya and Surendra plow a plot of land in the terraced fields of Kaule—an area heavily impacted by the 2015 earthquake. The Red Cross helped the siblings and their community during the emergency (with aid such as warm clothes, cash and kitchen items) and continued to help them recover.
Luk Maya and Surendra have been working these fields since they were kids and the beauty of their surroundings in not lost on them. “I’ve traveled to a lot of places and I still think my own village and fields are the most beautiful,” remarked Luk Maya, who is a Buddhist nun.
Water has always been scarce come springtime, but the earthquake made it worse. Because of the shifting land and inconsistent water, many Kaule residents had difficulty growing enough to sustain themselves and their livelihoods. Most residents lost their crops for the year after the quake, which was devastating. “Without water, we can’t farm. We can’t live,” remarked one of Luk Maya and Surendra’s neighbors, Phul Maya Tamang.
A few springs ago, the siblings and other families got irrigation back in the fields, thanks to the American Red Cross. As part of a project to restore food security and people’s income, the Red Cross trained residents on how to construct an irrigation system and supplied the materials to bring it to fruition. As an added benefit, community members now know how to build safe, strong irrigation systems in case they ever want to expand the network in the future. The increased water flow enabled farmers to grow basic food (like corn and potatoes) for their families and more profitable crops (like peas) to sell at the market. Luk Maya has seen a difference, “The mustard greens are a bit taller this year.”
Thousands of people like Luk Maya and Surendra have benefited from American Red Cross support in rebuilding their livelihoods. In areas affected by the earthquake, 2,900 people have received cash grants to invest in livestock, vegetable farming or other small enterprises.
Our work in Nepal continues
For more information about post-earthquake work in Nepal, visit redcross.org/Nepal and follow the Nepal Red Cross on social media.