As I set foot on the ground in Jajarkot and West Rukum on the 5th of November, two days after the earthquake of 6.4 magnitude had rattled the area on November 3 midnight, the aftermath was palpable. Armed with a sense of purpose and just a mobile for camera, I embarked on a journey to witness firsthand the devastation that had unfolded in these remote districts of Nepal.
The air was thick with both sorrow and resilience as I navigated through the affected areas. The landscape, once serene, now bore the scars of the seismic force that had reshaped it just days before. The remnants of what were once vibrant communities now lay in ruins, a stark reminder of the unpredictable power of nature. I was also witnessed of postmortems, funeral and injures treated in hospital of Khalanga, Jajarkot. I met with scores of families who lost their 3-5 dearest ones within a collapsed roofs in Bheri, Chhedagad, Aathbiskot, Nalgad municipalities and Sanibheri rural municipality, and visited dozens of health posts and schools destroyed in the affected areas. I saw the rescue team comprising security forces unanimously engaged in separation of debris and save properties left.
Key observations were:
While the collaborative relief distribution aimed to reach every affected household, a sense of urgency clashed with the reality on the ground. Relief management, though well-intentioned, appeared to progress at a slow pace due to challenges in reaching remote areas and coordinating resources.
Wandering through the corridor of the Bheri River, I encountered a haunting scene - mud-based rubble houses collapsed along the banks, a poignant testament to the destructive force that had swept through. This corridor, stretching from Thulibheri to Sanibheri alongside Jajarkot and West Rukum, bore the brunt of the earthquake's fury, leaving once-thriving settlements reduced to debris.
Interacting with locals, victims, and survivors, I learned about the unique challenges faced by those in mud-based structures. The slow passage of seismic waves through sandy areas, coupled with weak infrastructure, proved lethal. The very foundations of their homes couldn't withstand even a moderate tremor, resulting in widespread devastation.
During my stay, I was fortunate to contribute to relief efforts, providing non-food items through WHH and Rural Reconstruction Nepal-RRN. As I worked with these organizations, establishing a field office in Khalanga, Jajarkot, the focus shifted to early recovery and reconstruction for the resilience of these communities. The landscape, scarred as it was, also spoke of hope - hope for reconstruction, resilience, and a future safeguarded against the unpredictable forces that nature could unleash.
I would recommend that the government of Nepal should prioritize earthquake preparedness by investing in resilient infrastructure and conducting regular drills. Coordination between the national and local governments, along with civil society organizations, is crucial for efficient disaster response. Vulnerable populations need targeted plans, building codes should prioritize seismic resilience, and local governments must be equipped with disaster management training. Engaging communities in food for work to build their transitional shelters, rehabilitate their community assets, revitalization of health and education services, and international collaboration is vital. Comprehensive post-disaster recovery plans, mental health support, and adequate resource allocation should be emphasized for a more resilient Nepal in the face of seismic risks.
(Mr. Parajuli is human right and development activist,
practitioner. He is associated with Rural Reconstruction Nepal-RRN. Email: email@example.com)