“We will not abandon you” ACT Alliance General Secretary visits Nepal

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ACT Alliance General Secretary offers encouragement to Nepal earthquake survivors

“I will share your stories with the rest of the world so that you will be supported in rebuilding your lives. We will not abandon you.” With that message, ACT Alliance’s General Secretary John Nduna gave encouragement to earthquake survivors in Nepal during a recent visit. He also announced a second ACT Alliance appeal to raise further support.

Dharma Lal Shrestha from Baramchi village in Sindhupalchowk district was one of the many community members who shared his concerns with Nduna and the other ACT representative, Prabin Manandhar, country director of LWF and head of the ACT Alliance Nepal Forum.

“Our lives are at risk. A year after the earthquake we still live under tarpaulins. The irrigation system has broken down and we are no longer able to grow sufficient crops,” Shrestha said.

Deeply impressed with people’s resilience

Nduna and Manandhar visited different projects of the ACT Alliance members and discussed the progress of the earthquake response in meetings with Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli and two of the Deputy Prime Ministers Kamal Thapa and Chandra Prakash Mainali.

Nduna said he was deeply impressed by the resilience of the communities and their commitment to get back on their feet.

From settlements close to the capital, Kathmandu, to remote villages in the mountains, residents expressed their wish to rebuild their homes, schools and livelihoods.

In Sanogoan, one of the ACT Alliance model villages, the visitors met women making compressed earth bricks to prepare for the reconstruction of their village. LWF Nepal enabled 16 families to improve their livelihood with a small loan. All families received 200,000 Nepali rupees (USD 1,860) to rebuild their house. “The support has helped us through some very difficult times. It has united the community and has given us a focus,” Kabita Shrestha, one of the brick makers, said.

In Piskar in Sindhupalchowk, where the Dutch Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), a member of ACT Alliance, and its local partner ISARD, supported the reconstruction of a paper making factory, the visitors observed how the women turn the branches of the lokta tree into pulp. The pulp is poured into a frame and left to dry to create Nepal’s unique handmade paper.  “The income is very important to us,” said Dil Maya Shrestha, one of the workers. “It gives us relief in these difficult times.”

More support needed

But more help is needed. During a discussion with the people of Sanogoan, residents mentioned that a nearby school was partly destroyed during the earthquake. Parents worry about their children studying in an unsafe building.

In the absence of a local doctor or clinic, villagers are forced to take sick people to a remote hospital. The community members also worry that the contribution towards house reconstruction is not enough to build new homes for their large, extended families.

In Piskar village, the women expressed their concerns about the rainy season, when handmade paper cannot be produced and the families will have to find other means to sustain themselves. Investment in growing and harvesting herbs would ease the burden, the women felt.

Nduna said he felt humbled by the efforts of the ravaged community in rebuilding itself. “It is testament to your strength to see how you give yourself to the fullest. Help can never be enough, all we can do is support your efforts. We will continue to do that. We will not abandon you,” he assured the people of Sanogoan and Piskar.

Twelve communities supported

In the wake of the 2015 earthquake, the eight members of the ACT Alliance Nepal Forum allocated 40 million USD to support communities in 12 districts. Close to 100,000 households were supported. Over 65,000 temporary shelters were built, and more than 67,000 households received a hygiene and or winter supply kit. Psychosocial support and recreational support was offered to close to around 27,000 people. In addition, 170 temporary learning centers were set up and 228 drinking water systems repaired.

After visiting different project areas, Nduna concluded that the interventions had generally been effective. “I feel the members were able to provide a timely and dignified response to the earthquake, with respect for people’s real needs and accountability,” he said.

Nduna will share his Nepal experiences with different international forums, including the Humanitarian Network. He is confident extra support for Nepal can be raised, provided the government is supportive.

“Our job is not over yet. People should not be left behind. We need to walk with them till they can continue themselves,” Nduna said, adding that the most important area in which ongoing support is needed is shelter “so that everyone can experience the dignity of having a family home”.

Through a second ACT appeal, extra support will be raised especially in the areas of permanent housing and livelihood development.

Contribution by LWF correspondent Lucia de Vries, Nepal

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