Long Read

The aftermath of the earthquakes in Gorkha, Nepal

“The earthquake took our access to safe water. All the water tanks are still in one piece, but they don’t fill any more.  We used to get most of our water from the tanks on our roof during the monsoon, but most roofs have collapsed”. Shanta Laxmi Shrestra (27) is facing up to the continuing damage of the devastating earthquakes that hit Nepal between April 12 and May 25.

This young mother lives with her 5-year old son and 2-year old daughter in Pipal Thok,  a small community near Gorkha. Gorkha is one of the districts most heavily affected by the disaster (it is located in the epicentre) and one of Simavi’s WASH working areas. The damage to many houses in this district, including the collapse of many buildings, has left the people of Gorkha deprived of shelter and other basic needs such as water and sanitation. Most have sought  shelter in temporary constructions made from tarpaulin and local materials.

“Our house has collapsed and therefore we’re living somewhere else for the moment. We do have a roof to catch rainwater, but this is unfortunately not enough to provide everyone with water, so I walk to a nearby spring five times a day to get enough water for cleaning, washing and drinking. The well is half an hour away, so I try to take as much water as possible with me each time,” says Shanta.

The worst thing about the earthquake is that it took away my safe place to live. I’m afraid that it could happen again at any moment.

Findings of damage and need assessment

Simavi’s local partner in Nepal, NEWAH, has performed WASH damage and needs assessments on 14,036 households in our project areas in the Gorkha district. These have been made using Akvo flow, a smartphone field survey application. The analyses show that out of 337 temporary shelters only 319 have access to drinking water and 269 have access to, and use, toilets. 4% of camps are safe and have a safe health and hygiene status and 7%  have a good MHM status. Most IDPs are not hand washing with soap but they do know how to do it and are aware of its importance.

“Before the WASH project, there were many diseases in the village. If we hadn’t learnt how to keep ourselves and the village clean there could have been a big epidemic after the earthquake – so I’m very happy with everything Simavi taught us,”  explains Shanta.

“I wasn’t personally there when Simavi came and explained the WASH project to my village, but people who were there taught me. I learned how to wash my hands properly and keep my house and surroundings clean. The hygiene of my children is the most important thing for me. “

WASH rehabilitation

Based on the results of the damage and needs assessment, NEWAH has planned WASH rehabilitation in every area affected by the disaster. They aim to construct and rehabilitate every damaged WASH service and latrine, while supporting health and hygiene awareness activities in communities and schools.

In the short-term, temporary toilets will be installed to prevent diseases spreading via open defecation. The water supply system should be shortly reopened with a temporary solution to supply safe water to the camps.

A long-term plan to repair and reconstruct damaged toilets, water supply systems and restore damaged public services will be finalised as soon as possible.

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