Print Edition - 2015-05-22  |  Earthquake Relief

United they stand

- Vinni Thapa, Kathmandu
United they stand

May 21, 2015-

Having worked in humanitarian operations before, almost every relief distribution I have witnessed or heard of so far has mostly been chaotic. People are often furious—either for not getting enough relief materials, or for not getting any at all. But the relief distribution that I witnessed in Chauthe VDC, Nuwakot, turned out to be completely different.  

The entire community, numbering almost 800 people, had gathered in an open space to receive aid. People working as volunteers—old, young, women and men, including members of various political parties—were lined in the left, while the ones receiving aid were on the right. Also, there were a handful of volunteers scattered around the area, managing proper flow of the people. There were 900 solar lamps, 800 tarps, 900 utensil sets, and 560 hygiene kits ready for distribution all provided by Save the Children.

When the distribution started, children, single women and elderly people were placed first in line. People were calmly waiting for their turns without pushing or falling onto each other. I admired the patience and fortitude they displayed despite the plight and the desperation of having waited over a week for any relief.

In the queue, I met Laxmi, a single mother of three, patiently waiting for her name to be called. As I sat under the shade and spoke to her, she broke down in tears and shared the horror of the April 25 quake. Her home, already badly damaged by the first quake, was falling apart with every aftershock, and they had nowhere to live. Her deceased husband had built it years ago, with his hard-earned money, which he had earned working in India. As the tremors continue, she and her children are under the care of their neighbours.

As I was proceeding to talk to others in line, it started raining heavily. A middle-aged lady invited everyone inside a small room with shutters at the front, and more than 15 of us squeezed in—gratefully accepting her request. There I got a chance to interact with the locals and understand what they had gone through. Everyone in the room had lost someone or something in the quake—be it homes, family members, relatives, cattle or livelihood. And most of them feared about their future. Having lost so much, they were clueless as to restarting it all over again, with what little was left.

But even in the midst of fear, which was frequently aggravated by repeated aftershocks and the bad weather, the distribution continued without a hitch. The people were trying their best to help each other out, and especially the weakest members. A man who had come back from Kathmandu to help his fellow villagers was trying to make sure that families that needed the support most weren’t left behind.

Able-bodied men and women were helping others build temporary shelters by collecting bamboo poles, salvaging corrugated zinc sheets and putting up tents and tarpaulins. Single women, children and the elderly were warmly hosted by their neighbours, who were all too eager to share their spaces and food with them.

People whose homes were not electrified were the first ones to receive solar lamps. The residents of Chauthe stood by each other throughout my stay there, ensuring that help reached those who needed it the most.

Published: 22-05-2015 08:03

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