Nepal Still in Anguish One Year after Temblors

May 12, 2016

Row of buildings damaged in Earthquake in Nepal.
One year after two earthquakes struck Nepal, needs are still acute and extensive.

One year after the second major earthquake in three weeks hit Nepal, millions of dollars in international aid remain tied up in red tape. By contrast, aid from donors to indigenous Christian ministries has vaulted past the morass to provide critical help.

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake sent buildings tumbling on May 12, 2015, after an even more powerful quake on April 25 cast the country into chaos. Since then, only a fraction of the $4.1 billion in pledges has been disbursed, according to government figures.

"Nearly all of the pledged funds remain in the hands of the donors, unused," The New York Times reported on April 30. "The delay is misery for the 770,000 households awaiting a promised subsidy to rebuild their homes."

Red tape has also prohibited international organizations from building housing, and with monsoon rains set to begin in June, large-scale reconstruction may not begin until next year. Families who have lived for a year under tarps and sheet metal will have nothing more to shield them from the rains and cold for another season.

Nepal's government has been slow to move reconstruction efforts forward as it turned its focus to a new constitution last year, followed by political turmoil when minority groups protested their low representation under the historic document, The Times notes. Lowland, ethnic Madhesi said the constitution subjected them to domination by mountain peoples and left them with low representation in parliament and government agencies, and they began slowing transit along the India border even before the constitution went into effect on Sept. 20, 2015. The resulting blockade paralyzed the country.

Madhesi leaders in early February decided to re-open trading towns on the border with India, effectively ending the blockade. But after little government effort to address their grievances, they have begun threatening to cut off supplies from India again. The previous blockade depleted Nepal of fuel, electricity, food and medicines, driving up black market prices for critical items. Illnesses began to take their toll as prices for firewood and fuel rose beyond earthquake victims' means to pay, but with help from Christian Aid Mission donors, indigenous ministries were in position to provide locally available clothes, blankets, firewood and food.

Native Nepalese ministry workers began delivering aid almost immediately after the April 25 earthquake, which registered 7.8 on the Richter scale, killed at least 10,000 people and injured 17,000.

"By His grace and His provision through you, we were blessed to provide warm quilts for families who had lost their homes in the earthquake, warm clothes to children and building materials for church worship rooms," the director of an indigenous ministry recently said.

A woman who lost her husband and home was among the recipients of a humble but stable new house the indigenous ministry provided earlier this year. In tears, she said, "For the first time this year, I will be able to sleep warm."

The government only recently approved earthquake-resistant home requirements, and even as aftershocks continue to jolt villagers, ministry workers and other survivors are beginning to collect materials to rebuild homes, the ministry director said.

"We have been provided with $20,000 for this purpose," he said. "Please pray that we will be good stewards of these funds and utilize them wisely. If you would like to add to this fund, do be blessed by giving to those in need."

The earthquakes also demolished many church buildings.

People carrying sheet metal in Nepal.
Many families will try to survive another year with only sheet metal to protect them from the elements.

"We lost some church buildings, which were built through your help," another indigenous ministry leader said. "From the end of 2015 to the beginning of 2016, we were able to rebuild two churches, and more are in the process. We are thankful to God and to you. Because of your prayers and help, we could help to rebuild the churches."

Recently three people from one of the churches whose building was rebuilt were baptized, and in the same place a marriage ceremony took place, he added.

Another native ministry sent a young man who has a calling to serve God as a physician to help earthquake victims. The young Christian, Dipayan*, has some medical training, and he is waiting on government paperwork so that he can apply to medical school. Meantime, he has served villagers tirelessly since the earthquakes struck.

"Someone came from one of the NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations], not having much with them to help these people," the indigenous ministry leader said. "Dipayan told me that he didn't sleep for four days, but whatever he can do, he is doing. People are coming to him for help, counseling and so on."

She said that medical and other relief workers from outside the village do not know the local language, leaving Dipayan in a critical role as an indigenous worker.

"The villagers do not understand other people who come to help them," the ministry leader said. "I think it is God's plan for Dipayan to help them, because after the earthquake, he was the main person who played a big role between the villagers and relief workers. He is a small light shining in those villages. Pray that the eyes of the people will be opened to see His light."

Indigenous workers from a dozen Nepalese ministries that Christian Aid assists played equally crucial roles under severe conditions in the past year, distributing food, tarps and other relief items, as well as building materials. The needs remain critical and vast.

"Four pastors are heading to Gorkha District, where quake victims – 350 believers from 17 churches, as well some non-believers – attended a previous training session," another ministry director reported earlier this month. "They said people [from other, non-Christian groups] had come with other relief items as well, but no one came with such teachings, the Word of God. Lots of inner healing took place there. A couple hundred people from this area died, and every one lost their homes, but now I believe they are comforted, and I believe this upcoming training also will bring joy to those villages. Thank you for your prayers."

* (names changed for security reasons)

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