Oxfam helps close to half a million earthquake survivors

Oxfam volunteer Shekhar Khadka (23) works to off load latrines being delivered to the Tundikhel IDP camp in Kathmandu, Nepal. He is one of 500 volunteers trained to react in the event of an earthquake during the urban risk management program - Credit: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam

In the wake of the devastating 2015 earthquake, in the span of a year, Oxfam and its partners provided life saving support to close to half a million people. Oxfam works in seven of the 14 most affected districts: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Nuwakot, Dhading, Gorkha, and Sindhupalchowk.

The powerful earthquake, followed by a second quake on May 12 and countless aftershocks, affected 39 out of 75 districts, or a third of Nepal’s population. While nearly 9000 people died, more than 22,000 got injured and nearly 750.000 houses were damaged or destroyed.

Oxfam in Nepal immediately responded by providing life saving relief including food items and drinking water and by setting up temporary shelters and emergency latrines. After the initial relief phase the focus shifted to recovery and reconstruction. In both phases, Oxfam worked in four key areas: shelter, food and livelihoods, gender, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

A voice for the voiceless

Apart from supporting earthquake survivors in the districts, Oxfam in Nepal proved a strong advocate for people’s rights. In October 2015 Oxfam published key recommendations for reconstruction and recovery in its publication ‘Rebuilding a More Resilient Nepal’.

A month later, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UK, Oxfam warned that its humanitarian programme in Nepal was just two weeks away from a complete standstill due to the fuel crisis caused by disruptions at the border with India. Oxfam urged the governments of Nepal and India to resolve the crisis to avoid a humanitarian emergency.

A quick response

Oxfam in Nepal and its partners started providing shelter kits just three days after the earthquake. The immediate priority was to provide a roof for families before the rainy season, then - with a focus on the approaching winter - to provide items to insulate shelter such as thermal mats, blankets, mattresses and hot water bottles. Close to 50.000 emergency shelters and around 9000 improved shelters were constructed and over 12,000 received the so-called Winterisation Kit.

Of the over 11,000 water supply systems in the 14 most affected districts, 46% were partially or fully damaged. Approximately 220,000 toilets sustained damages. Oxfam and its partners supported over 54.000 families with hygiene kits and with the construction of over 7,200 latrines. A total of 159 water systems got rebuild or newly installed.

Rebuilding livelihoods

To prevent people from spiraling into abject poverty, Oxfam and its partners prioritized livelihood development. Initially seeds, animal feed and agricultural tools were distributed to farmers.  Later over 6000 Compassionate Grants were provided enabling people to buy life saving food items or medicines. Over 2300 families received a Multi Purpose grant to restart existing businesses, to regenerate community infrastructure, and to support market and financial systems.

Close to 22,500 vulnerable families were selected by Oxfam’s Cash for Work (CFW) programme. This scheme provides short-term employment in the rebuilding of community services including debris cleaning, trail repair and irrigation channel reconstruction to vulnerable families for up to 20 days. The programme is essential to the survival and recovery of those who lost their livelihoods.

In a woman’s world

Of the houses damaged by the earthquake, 26% belong to female-headed households. Women own only 19% of housing and land, and more than a quarter of women go without a citizen certificate. This puts them at risk of being excluded from the relief and reconstruction programmes.

A safe home away from home was provided through the establishment of eight Women’s Centres. The centres provided separate toilets, safe bathing spaces, and awareness on obtaining legal documents to visiting vulnerable women.

Oxfam and its partners distributed 8000 dignity kits (including undergarments, sanitary napkins and clothes) and 7000 need based kits (including blankets, radio, education kits and/or solar lights, etc).

Women were further supported by counseling and referral services, strengthening women's groups, life skills training and livelihood support.