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3 Months After: Illness, Hunger Close in on Earthquake Survivors in Nepal

Christian Aid Mission | Tuesday, August 4, 2015

3 Months After: Illness, Hunger Close in on Earthquake Survivors in Nepal

Following Nepal's massive April 25 and May 12 earthquakes, villagers who have lost their homes are spending hours lugging corrugated metal sheets up mountains to protect their families against torrential rains. Given what precedes the mountain treks and what follows, trudging for two days up muddy trails with the unwieldy sheet metal may be the easiest part of survival. 

Preceding the treks can be near riotous competition for the coveted corrugated iron. After arriving at remote villages, they must then find a way, despite the absence of other structural materials, to utilize the sheet metal to shelter hungry family members. Three months after the first 7.8-magnitude quake, food aid remains a high priority. Lacking food and clean water, adults are increasingly despondent, and children frightened, as hunger and intestinal illness grow each day, indigenous missionaries report. 

Indigenous ministries that already have distribution channels in place, the necessary permits and the cultural understanding and contacts to provide aid have been critical in keeping the unhoused sheltered and fed, said Christian Aid Mission's South Asia Director, Sarla. 

She returned last week from her second visit since the first earthquake to provide aid to Nepali ministries. 

Christian Aid Mission is an evangelical missionary organization that seeks to establish a witness for our Lord Jesus Christ in every tribe and nation by assisting indigenous missionary ministries through prayer, advocacy and financial support. Christian Aid supports 12 ministries in Nepal.

"There are a lot of NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] in Kathmandu right now trying to bring help, but the lack of coordination and assessment – where and who has lost what and how much, and who really needs to get help – has not really been done properly," she said. "So everybody is waiting for something to happen." 

The indigenous Christian organizations, by contrast, have been distributing rice, salt, soya bean, noodles, cereals and other items to people who are struggling to protect themselves from monsoon rains. A team from one of the indigenous ministries had the means and the knowledge to conduct a two-week assessment of needs in one area, and local missionaries had the contacts and established governmental relations to glide through red tape and get relief to victims, Sarla said. 

"We are sending funds to local agencies that are already aware of these issues – they know how to go about it, they know what needs to be done to get to a village, they know how to get the permits you need, they know who to call in the village, they know how to make these assessments," she said. "They are in much better position than somebody going from the outside and trying to find some local connections here." 

In the official distribution process, the government is requiring villagers to bring proof of damages. The victims do not have cameras or any other means for providing such evidence of need, Sarla said. They have to rely on officials to come to their villages to make assessments, and no one in remote areas knows when that might happen. 

Meantime, landslides have continued to rock affected districts, and there are tremors nearly every day, some as strong as 5.5 on the Richter scale, she said. The official death toll from the earthquakes, including May 12's 7.3-magnitude aftershock, is more than 9,000, with more casualties yet to be discovered. 

Desperate villagers have become panicked at distribution of limited amounts of aid. In a remote area of Makwanpur District, a ministry team found about 200 families from various villages in need, including 52 families who had lost everything – homes, crops and livestock. A team from the indigenous ministry showed up at a distribution site with a truck full of corrugated sheet metal in the pouring rain. 

Representatives from the 52 families then rolled up their long sheets of corrugated metal, loaded them onto their backs and began the climb back on washed-out donkey trails. Representatives had come from one village as far as nine hours away by foot. The closest village was four hours away. 

The indigenous missionaries plan to trek up to those same villages with the message of Christ's salvation after those who have lost everything have regained their lives and livelihood. 

Among 12 ministries that Christian Aid supports, leaders report 35 church buildings have been destroyed. If they receive funding, the indigenous leaders plan to rebuild church buildings before houses, as the government will be obligated to provide at least some help to citizens in need of new homes but none for places of worship. Church buildings are also important for providing community services, and in villages where worship in homes would arouse suspicion if not hostility, they serve as an acceptable place for worship. 

Courtesy: Christian Aid Mission

Photo: Scene of Nepal

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia 

Publication date: August 4, 2015

3 Months After: Illness, Hunger Close in on Earthquake Survivors in Nepal