DAAMGADE, Nepal (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal a year ago, 25-year-old Yama Tamang lost his farm, where he used to grow maize.
To support his wife and their three children, he now makes bamboo baskets in the Daamgade temporary camp in Dhading district, 90 km (56 miles) from the capital, Kathmandu. The baskets are used on construction sites for carrying materials like stones and cement.
Daamgade, one of seven camps set up in Dhading, shelters 131 families, most of whom also make baskets for a living.
Helping families recover after last year’s devastating earthquakes has proved harder than expected, for reasons ranging from funding delays to a fuel blockade.
As they struggle to rebuild their homes, many find themselves trapped in camps or forced to migrate to cities – or out of the country – to find ways to support their families.
Manamati Tamang, who shares a common local surname, lives with her three children at the camp. Their tents were blown away by a wind storm in the last week of March.
Her husband went to find construction work in Qatar after the earthquake and sends Manamati a little over 10,000 rupees ($93) a month.
“Feeding the family, paying for the children’s education and other daily expenses has been a struggle,” said Manamati. “If we lived in a house, we at least wouldn’t have to worry as much about protecting ourselves from the climate.”
Manamati’s house in nearby Ree village, where she used to live, was destroyed during the earthquake, forcing her family to leave the land where they grew crops including maize, millet and paddy.
More than 600 earthquake victims living at Daamgade face constantly changing weather conditions, including at times heavy rain and hail. The hilly land where the camp is situated is frequently flooded, which residents fear may cause landslides.
The Nepalese government’s promise in May 2015 to distribute 200,000 rupees ($1,880) to each family affected by the earthquake filled people with hope, said Daaud Tamang, manager of the Daamgade camp.
But most of that money has yet to materialise.
“The recent changes of government and of management of the country’s National Reconstruction Authority are partly to blame for the delay in compensation,” said Bishwa Prakash Subedi, chief district officer for Dhading.
An unofficial blockade on Nepal’s southern border, supported by the Indian government and sparked by ethnic protests at Nepal’s first post-monarchy constitution adopted in September, also hurt the availability of fuel, medicine and other vital supplies for months, hampering reconstruction, Subedi added.
According to Govinda Pokharel, former head of the National Reconstruction Authority, the government should appoint more staff to speed up the rebuilding process. “There is a reconstruction plan – it just needs to be executed,” he said.
Pressure for residents to vacate Daamgade is mounting, as the land where it is located is privately owned.
Families were initially only expected to stay in the camp for a few months, until rehabilitation got underway. But with the process showing no signs of being completed soon, the land’s owners are pushing camp residents to find alternative shelter.
Many are taking their families to neighbouring cities, in the hope of finding a job as a builder or a porter. Some are staying with relatives, while others return to their villages to build new homes – though without the right building guidelines, these are unlikely to be earthquake-resistant, Subedi said.
About 80 to 90 families out of 131 living in Daamgade have purchased nearby strips of land measuring 1,000 square feet, big enough for a small house, for 150,000 rupees as part of a government scheme. But not all families can afford that.
International agencies are attempting to fill the breach. Since October 2015, the International Organization for Migration has put workers in touch with local groups providing month-long jobs for earthquake survivors. The jobs include house demolition work, which pays 500-700 rupees a day.
But these jobs provide no long-term security, Yama said, adding that living in a temporary shelter for a prolonged period prevents people from finding a permanent source of income and makes it difficult to prepare for the future.
“The rainy season is coming in June, so we have to plan beyond the next few weeks,” he said. “We simply don’t know what we may face tomorrow, and we don’t want to die.”
(Reporting by Arun Karki, editing by Zoe Tabary and Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories)
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