Victims of last November’s Doti earthquake spend cold winter months under flimsy tarpThirty-four people from eight families have been living under one tarpaulin tent in Uparkada.
It has been three months since Majite Saud, a 70-year-old man from Uparkada in Purbichauki Rural Municipality-5, has been living in a tent. He has been spending the cold winter months under a tarpaulin tent since he lost his house to the November 9 earthquake.
Six people died, seven were injured, and hundreds were displaced by a magnitude 6.6 earthquake that hit Purbichauki Rural Municipality.
Besides Purbichauki, Dipayal Silgadhi Municipality and Shikhar Municipality were also greatly affected. Approximately 500 houses were completely damaged, and another 4,500 were partially damaged in these local units.
Since then, hundreds of earthquake victims have been living in temporary shelters in nearby areas.
Thirty-four people, including Majite, from eight families, have been living under one tent in Uparkada to fight the cold. The current temperature in the area is six degrees Celsius.
Saud, who is an asthma patient, says his health condition is worsening by the day because of his poor living conditions. “I have been suffering from asthma for the past 20 years but it has never been as worse as it is this year,” he said. “All of us are sleeping on the cold hard ground pressed against each other to stay warm.”
Saud’s house has suffered major damages from the earthquake and the fear of the roof falling over his head is what is keeping him from returning home, he says.
Rambha Saud, a 30-year-old woman, is eight-months pregnant. She is among the 34 victims sharing the same tent. Since winter began, she has had to visit the health centre in Chaukhute in Ward No 5 four times to cure common cold and cough.
In addition to her own health, she is worried about the health of her unborn child.
“We have been living here in the tent like prisoners. I have not been able to take care of my unborn child. We cannot light a fire inside the tarpaulin tent to keep ourselves warm. The roof itself is beginning to leak,” said Rambha. “Our house was made of mud, stones and wood. The earthquake destroyed it completely, so we don’t have anywhere else to go.”
According to her, elderly, pregnant women, and children are suffering from cough and cold. “All of us are living in miserable conditions and most of us are sick,” she said.
Ram Prasad Pathak, chief of the health unit of Purbichauki Rural Municipality, says the displaced victims are showing physical and psychological problems caused by displacement. “There are currently more than 200 pregnant women and more than 300 asthmatic patients in the earthquake-affected Purbichauki area. Most victims who lost their homes to the earthquake are living in tents with no protection from the cold. More people are likely to fall ill if this continues and there is also a shortage of medicines in the municipality,” he said.
Khante Saud, one of the displaced victims, says the government authorities have not shown any interest in their plight. The authorities have not even completed the initial report of the earthquake, he said.
“Even though tarpaulins, blankets, and warm clothes were distributed by the local unit and various charitable organisations, they are not enough,” said Khante. “They have to resettle us before our condition gets worse. The authorities have not even announced any rehabilitation programmes for us.”
According to Kalpana Shrestha, chief district officer, plans are afoot to construct temporary houses for the displaced but construction work on the project has only just begun. “The Nepal Cross Society will build 200 houses in coordination with the Community Development Centre, a non-governmental organisation, and Upekshit Samudaya Sashaktikaran Tatha Bikas Manch, also a non-governmental organisation, will build 150 temporary houses,” said Shrestha.
Lakshiram Kunwar, chairman of the Nepal Red Cross Society, Doti, said the construction of the temporary house was delayed due to some legal issues. “Those issues have now been resolved and the construction of the house has begun on Tuesday,” he said.