What delays the rehabilitation of earthquake-displaced peopleSince November, 35 homeless, mainly senior citizens and minors, have died.
The 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit Jajarkot and Rukum West on November 3 and affected some areas in Salyan damaged around 8,000 public and private houses. There have been at least 157 reported deaths from Jajarkot and Rukum West, officials said.
According to Karnali Provincial Police, some 34,501 houses were destroyed in Jajarkot and 16,909 houses in Rukum West. In Salyan, a total of 2,821 people were displaced in the earthquake. So far, various political parties, organisations, and volunteers have been able to build only around 350 temporary shelters in Jajarkot and 150 in West Rukum.
A majority of the displaced are still living under tarpaulin tents. According to Dr Priya Shahi of Chhedagad Municipality-based Basic Hospital, around 100 patients suffering from various cold-related ailments visit the hospital daily. Among them, almost 60 percent are children. Most earthquake survivors suffer from diarrhoea, pneumonia, fever, cold-related complications, and other problems.
The delay in the rehabilitation of the displaced families has so far led to the death of 35 earthquake-displaced people, mainly elderly and minors in Jajarkot and Rukum West.
How many families were displaced by the earthquake?
Based on the registered beneficiary list at the District Administration Office in Jajarkot, around 79,599 families were displaced and in need of rehabilitation. According to the data of the District Administration Office in West Rukum, there are 28,043 families displaced by the earthquake. The number of displaced families in Salyan stands at 2,821.
After much delay, the reconstruction of temporary shelters has begun in all three districts. The Chief District Officer of Jajarkot Suresh Sunar says at least Rs4 billion is needed to complete the distribution of the first tranche of the reconstruction aid to the displaced families.
“The District Administration Office has received Rs2.26 billion for the first tranche. Out of which Rs1.90 billion has been transferred to the local units for disbursement to the affected families,” he said. According to Sunar, some 50,000 beneficiaries have gotten the grant money while 24,010 beneficiaries have already completed the construction of temporary shelters.
In West Rukum, 22,065 families have received the first tranche of the grant and around 14,006 families have built temporary shelters. According to the District Administration Office, West Rukum, Rs708.9 million was allotted for the first tranche of the reconstruction aid.
In Salyan, the number of families displaced by the earthquake has reached 2,821. So far, only 520 families have received the first tranche of the reconstruction aid. Chief District Officer of Salyan Shambhu Regmi said that nearly 400 families are living under tarpaulin tents.
According to Regmi, 1,743 houses were completely destroyed in the district, and 1,078 houses were partially damaged. Around Rs70 million was allotted to build temporary shelters for earthquake victims in Salyan.
What are short-term and long-term rehabilitation plans?
According to the Temporary Housing Construction Grant Procedure for Earthquake Affected Households-2023, a displaced family whose house is completely or partially damaged and has become inhabitable will receive Rs50,000 each in two tranches. Currently, the distribution of the first tranche (Rs25,000) is ongoing in all three affected districts. Jajarkot Chief District Officer Sunar said no long-term rehabilitation programme is planned.
What are hurdles to swift construction of temporary shelters?
Lack of sufficient funds at the district administration offices is currently one of the major hurdles in expediting the construction of temporary shelters. Sunar said earlier the delay was caused by the local units that failed to collect data on time and forward it to the district administration offices. “Now the data collection process has been completed but the districts have not received enough budget from the centre,” he said. “This has caused delays in the rehabilitation of the displaced in all the affected districts.”
Meanwhile, the displaced victims have been languishing in tarpaulin tents for the past three months. “Everyone in my family is suffering from cold-related ailments. We have spent the whole winter outdoors and under a tent,” said Keshar Bahadur Rawat, a local from Ward 1 of Bheri Municipality, Jajarkot, who has a family of seven. “We don’t have enough food. I still haven’t received the grant money to build a temporary home. We were hoping to build a temporary shelter but due to the delay in the distribution of the money we haven’t been able to do so.”
The district administration offices also faced delays in distributing aid for the construction of temporary shelters due to the increasing number of applicants. The inflated numbers of applicants compared to the initial data collected raise doubts about the accuracy of the claims of the applicants, said Sunar. According to him, around 300-400 beneficiaries were being added to the list daily back in the first week of January. “As a result, we were having problems in the distribution of housing aid,” he said.
How have the survivors been coping?
The displaced families in Wards 1 and 4 of Nalgad Municipality, Jajarkot, are yet to get the grant money. According to Badri Pant, ward chair of ward 4 of Nalgad Municipality, around 500 houses were completely destroyed in the ward, and among them, some 40 people have managed to move out of the tents and into temporary shelters they managed to build themselves or with the help of non-governmental organisations.
“Earthquake survivors are getting frustrated due to the delay in the distribution of the grant money. We are also helpless as the district administration has not sent any money for the victims,” said Pant.
Dhan Bahadur Mahar, the ward chair of Nalgad-1, said 27 people died and 19 people were injured in the earthquake in the ward. Similarly, some 850 houses were completely destroyed. Around 800 people are still living in tents. “Some non-governmental organisations came and helped some 50 families build temporary shelters. The rest are all still living under tents.”
“Due to the delay in the construction of the temporary shelters, it has become difficult to save children, the elderly, newborns, and pregnant women who are suffering from various illnesses because they are having to put up in tents in extreme cold,” said Mahar.
What is the expected time frame for completion of grant distribution and rehabilitation?
According to Hari Prasad Pant, the chief district officer of Rukum West, building temporary shelters for all earthquake victims is expected to take at least three more months. Complete rehabilitation of earthquake victims will take more than three years, he said.
“The federal government will start the process to send money for permanent housing only after the construction of temporary shelters,” said Pant. “It will thus take more than three years to build permanent shelters and rehabilitate the victims.”
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority formed a task force under the coordination of joint secretary Bharatmani Pandey to assess the needs after the earthquake. The task force has submitted a report to the government stating building temporary shelters in all three three districts will cost Rs73.79 billion.