Quake-hit battle second winter in temporary huts

- RAJENDRA MANANDHAR, DOLAKHA

Jan 6, 2017-

The three-month-old son of Sita KC has suffered two bouts of pneumonia already. “It’s  the cold,” she said, cradling the balnket-bundled baby in her arms. She is not well  herself. 

Winter at Boch VDC in the upper region of Dolakha district can be unforgiving, doubly  so for the people like Sita living in temporary shelters since the destructive  earthquake of 2015. A brief period of sunlight the VDC receives in the morning is the  only warmth they get these days. 

“At night, you get cold no matter how much layers of clothes you sleep in. No wonder  everyone around is ill,” Sita said.

At Charikot Hospital, the number of people suffering from cold-related diseases has  shot up of late. Most of the patients are quake-affected people living in cold region  of Dolakha.

Dr Binod Dangal said 40 percent of the patients who have been admitted to hospital  were suffering from illnesses that are either cold related or the ones that tend to  worsen during winter. 

“Most of the patients we have right now are old people with asthma and pneumonia. We  also have a few pregnant women, new mothers and children,” he said.

Seventy-year-old asthma patient, Gangalaxmi Shrestha, was visiting the hospital for what she said was the fourth time this winter. She has been living in a temporary housing after the earthquake like Sita and thousands of others in Dolakha. 

“My asthma gets worse with cold which is inescapable inside the hut where I live,” she said. 

According to the District Development Office, around 4,500 families are still living in transition shelters that are poorly built to defend the cool winter. The government has so far only completed distributing the first batch of housing reconstruction aid (Rs 50,000 each) to the earthquake-displaced families here. Most of these families have not even begun construction. 

They have been saying time and again that the aid distributed by the government on an instalment basis is not sufficient to start a house construction, which is true particularly in places like Boch VDC where the cost of transporting construction materials alone could cost the earthquake victims the entire sum of money they received from the government.

“You don’t get workers or construction materials here ,” said Uttar Kumari Shrestha of Boch VDC.  “No one is more eager than us to move into a new house to escape this miserable winter.”

Meanwhile, Sita is not sure how long she will have to live in a dreary condition, always fretful about the health of her baby.

“More than anything else I’m worried about the well-being of my baby which is uncertain living here in this condition,” she said.

Published: 06-01-2017 09:30

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