By Arun Rai, Nepal Red Cross Society
For Dil Bahadur Tamang and his wife Dudh Maya, both in their eighties, the dream of living out their old age in their beautiful two-storey village home was brutally shattered by last year’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake. The couple’s house in Ramechhap District, located some four hours’ drive from Kathmandu, was destroyed along with all their possessions.
“We lived in a makeshift house made of tarpaulins provided by our neighbour after earthquake,” says Dil Bahadur, 83.
Dudh Maya, 88, adds that life in the makeshift shelter was very hard. “We had to face the cold wind and a harsh environment,” she says.
Now, the couple have built a new house after receiving the first tranche of a cash grant provided by the Nepal Red Cross Society.
The decision to build was not an easy one. The shortage of water, lack of masons and building materials made constructing their home a challenge. Dil Bahadur’s biggest concern was the lack of water. Many residents in his village have not yet started to rebuild due to similar worries.
Dil Bahadur and Dudh Maya did not lose heart. “We had to hire locals to ferry water from a nearby water source at a cost of around 80 Nepalese Rupees or around (70 cents US) per drum,” says Dil Bahadur. They also considered the cost of the masons’ wages, which amounted to an alarming 700 Nepalese Rupees (around 6.50 US Dollars) per day.
“It is quite a feat that this octogenarian duo have completed their house,” says Suprabha Sharma, the Junior Engineer of Earthquake Response Operation at the Nepal Red Cross. “Along with technical aid from the Red Cross, they followed the specifications prescribed by the Department of Urban Development & Building Construction (DUDBC). They should be eligible to receive the remaining cash grant for shelter support after an inspection from DUDBC’s engineer.”
The Tamang couple rely on farming and an allowance from the local government for financial support. Now their main worry is about how to pay all the bills incurred during construction. Pointing out that they are surviving on a government Old Age Allowance and sustenance farming, the couple say they are eagerly awaiting the remaining instalments of the shelter cash grant. These are to be disbursed by the Red Cross once the government publishes its checklist of criteria for disbursement of the money.
The earthquake and its aftershocks left hundreds of thousands people homeless and nearly 9,000 people dead. The Nepal Red Cross Society, which is the largest humanitarian organisation in the Himalayan country, is using a multi-pronged approach to help survivors recover from the disaster. Apart from the cash grants, which have been distributed to more than 6,000 families, the Red Cross is also helping to restore and improve health services, promoting best hygiene practices and supporting affected-communities in restoring their livelihoods, as well as preparing them for future disasters.