Nepal’s earthquake victims ill-equipped to survive the cold

Survivors of the Nov 3 earthquakes living in temporary shelters in the open have been pushed further into difficulties, with the earthquake-affected areas experiencing rainfall since Dec 4.


This picture, taken last month, shows a group of earthquake-displaced people cooking meals outside their tarp shelters at Barekot of Jajarkot district. PHOTO: THE KATHMANDU POST

December 7, 2023

KATHMANDU – Aite Pun does not have warm clothes to protect him from the harsh cold. His family members are huddled inside the tarpaulin tent they have been calling home since the November 3 earthquake destroyed their house at ward 1 of Sanibheri Rural Municipality in West Rukum.

“It started raining this morning. The temperature has dropped considerably. We don’t have warm clothes or bedding. We don’t even have enough food for all of us to be able to eat to our stomach’s content,” said Pun. “It’s difficult to stay dry even inside the tent when it rains. Water leaks from the corners and the ground gets muddy so we can’t even light a fire. We received the first instalment [Rs25,000] of the government grant a few days ago, but we haven’t been able to build a temporary shelter yet since there is a shortage of zinc sheets and other building materials.”

On Monday, the mountainous areas of the Karnali province saw the first snow of the season, resulting in extremely cold conditions in the region.

Survivors of the November 3 earthquake in both Jajarkot and West Rukum in Karnali who have been living in temporary shelters in the open have been pushed further into difficulties with the earthquake-affected areas experiencing rainfall since Monday morning.

Although the distribution of the first instalment of the grant meant for the construction of temporary shelters has begun in some local units following the completion of data collection and verification, actual construction of shelters has yet to begin. The distribution of the grant was delayed after the data on losses submitted by local authorities in Jajarkot and West Rukum was found to be inaccurate last week.

Karna Bahadur Pun, from ward 13 of Athbiskot Municipality in West Rukum whose house was also destroyed in the earthquake, said that nearly everybody living under tents is suffering from some illnesses due to the cold. Among them, the elderly, disabled, the chronically ill, and women and children, are the most affected.

“In the absence of shelter, medical assistance, and medications, the health condition of every displaced individual is deteriorating,” said Karna. “We survived the earthquake, but I think the cold will eventually kill us.”

According to the District Administration Office in West Rukum, as of Monday, eight of the earthquake-displaced people living under tarpaulin tents have died. In Jajarkot, the number of deaths among the earthquake-displaced has reached 22, according to the District Administration Office, Jajarkot.

Sushila Khatri from Ramidada in ward 1 of Barekot Rural Municipality in Jajarkot, the earthquake’s epicentre, said that the dip in temperature triggered by rainfall on Monday has made survival difficult.

“We somehow survived the earthquake, but are living in miserable conditions in the absence of a house, good clothes, and a shortage of daily consumables in this extreme cold,” Khatri told the Post. “Everyone is sick and getting sicker by the day.”

According to Prabesh Baduwal, assistant chief district officer of West Rukum, the number of verified beneficiaries for the construction of the temporary shelters in the district had reached 14,224 by last Friday, and the number is more likely to increase as the process of counting, collection of damage details, and verification in some of the affected local units is still going on.

“The grant money for the verified beneficiaries has been transferred into the accounts of local units, and the distribution is underway. The remaining victims will soon receive their grant money after the submission of the applications by the Disaster Management Committee of their respective local units,” said Baduwal.

According to Hukum Bahadur Pun, ward chair of ward 14 of Athbiskot Rural Municipality, the process of distributing the first instalment of the grant money has started in the local unit, along with the collection of data for the remaining victims.

“Even though the distribution has started, very few people have started the construction of temporary shelters. Most of the affected areas are in remote locales, including ward 14, where there is a shortage of essential materials such as zinc sheets, nails, and fencing wires, among other things, due to which people who received their grant money have not been able to start the construction,” said Hukum. “Discussions are going on with local businessmen for the supply of necessary materials so the victims can start the construction. It, however, is going to take some time to make arrangements for building materials.”

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