25th of April 2015, right before noon, a 7,8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. In the weeks to come there where over 100 aftershocks, as well as a second major earthquake on May 12. Causing death, injures and devastation among the affected population. Sindhupalchok (east for Kathmandu) was one of the worst affected districts, and last week we were invited to join a field trip to this district together with a Norwegian Red Cross delegation, country representative in Nepal, Nepal Red Cross Society executive director and local staff.
The Norwegian Red Cross has been working in this area for many years, and after the earthquake projects and support within the district increased to ensure its recovery. During our days in Sindhupalchok, we observed how the local population had recovered much due to assistance from the Red Cross. How the organisation has considered who to reach out to first, and how aid and support has been proberly thought through before implenting has been really inspiring to see - keep on reading to learn more about this!
The chosen approach for the recovery programme is called four plus one due to its main focus on four areas, and additional on capacity building of local Red Cross. It is chosen as to assist the vulnerable people affected by the earthquake in four different ways, and in Sindhupalchok district this was especially important as it was heavily affected. Today one could even see the effect of these interventions in the very landscape with many new houses, and in the stories of the people living in them. The most inspiring aspect of this was to learn how the most vulnerable, especially women who lost their husbands, were helped according to equity; meaning that those who needed more help received it (as is illustrated below).
The first approach in 4+1 is to ensure shelter, as it is one of the most basic human needs. This was done by Red Cross through capacity building related to shelter, such as training 800 skilled workers on earthquake resistent techniques, and handing out emergency shelter kits to locals. Red Cross also shared information on how to safely reconstruct houses, and provided the government program guidelines to 4500 households. Today the result of this intervention is that more than 80% of the houses are rebuilt, and even the most vulnerable who struggled to start reconstruction have been assisted in the process and have earthquake-proof houses today.
WATER, SANITATION AND HYGIENE
The second approach is to have a sustainable reduction in the risk of waterborne diseases, and to ensure this 25 new water supplies were constructed which ensured that 1215 households have access to clean and safe water. Schools were also a focus area in this, and therefore 37 teachers were specifically trained in school sanitation and hygiene education - this is information which through each teacher reaches out to many young people and their families. Nine child, gender and disability friendly toilets were also constructed with support from Red Cross, and in the longer term this contributes to keeping more girls in school as they have the necessary facilities during their menstruation period.
The third approach is to increase awareness of improved health practices, and it especially targeted maternal health as it has been a large issue in Nepal. When combined with difficult roads and little public transport, the poorer women living in the district faced difficulties in ther pregnancies. Therefore outreach clinics, built closer to the rural areas, were constructed for the people to access health support on a regular basis - and to ensure that pregnant women have check-ups, and bring in their newborns for vaccinations. Both of these efforts toward maternal health protect mother and child during a vulnerable period of their life that in the past claimed many lives.
The fourth approach is to support livelihood, meaning the work, of vulnerable people. Livelihood projects strengthen this, and in Sindhupalchok 1000 households had their food security and income ensured through this. Especially vulnerable people were also here given additional support, where for instance a single mother was given funds to buy three goats and build a goat rearing shed. Today she has eleven goats and is living comfortably due to this investment.
The last, and “plus one” component to the recovery programme is to strengthen capacity. While this is done continuously in all the other areas, here it also includes the capacity of the local Red Cross branch as they withouth a doubt did most of the work. Therefore it is important to strengthen the local volunteers and staff as well, such as by providing relevant training or working spaces. This ensures effective support to activities performed by them. An example of this is to reconstruct the damaged District Chapter building, so that it is now earthquake proof and again can be used as a location for trainings and an office for local staff.
These days has given an insight to how Red Cross works when a real disaster hits, and most importantly how they countinue to assist in the years to come!