Shattered dreams and spiraling debt. Nepal’s earthquake survivors struggle to make ends meet

Publicado: 11 mayo 2015 22:14 CET

By Andrea Reisinger

Narayan Karki’s dream was to become an accountant and earn enough money to support his family in the district of Sindhuli. Currently that dream is on hold as Narayan and his family is homeless after their home and most of their village was destroyed by the earthquake in Nepal on 25 April. They now live in a sweltering temporary shelter made from plastic sheeting that protects their few belongings inside.

“Try to sit in the shelter,” he says. “You won’t last more than five minutes! It is so hot inside.”

With the rainy season approaching, temperatures in some districts of Nepal are reaching 30 degrees and above. The traditional stone and mud houses in the village provided protection from the sun, but they weren’t strong enough to withstand the earthquake.

When the quake struck, Narayan was studying at the Sainik Awasiya Mahavidhyalaya military school in Bhaktapur. The impact of the tremor in the Kathmandu Valley made him worry about his family in Sindhuli. A day later he was on a bus home, and today he feels paralyzed by his changed circumstances.

“What would you do if you were in my situation? I have no choices. I have no job, no income and no livestock. We lost everything: our house and ten goats. We don’t even have a toilet!” he says, as his grandmother Kali Karki slowly edges into the shade under the makeshift shelter. “We are poor and we can only survive by borrowing borrow money from rich people.”

Before he left Kathmandu Valley, Narayan borrowed 50,000 Rupees (approx. USD 500) from a private businessman.

“The interest rate is 40 per cent and I will need to pay back the loan in 18 months. If I can pay it back earlier, the interest will be less.” At 17 years old Narayan has a bright future ahead but now he has no choice and has to become indebted to support his family.

“We feel like beggars,” he says.  On top of this, food prices have risen since the earthquake. “Before a packet of noodles was 15 Rupees, now it is 50.”

Sindhuli has not received much international attention as it is not amongst the worst of the districts affected by the earthquake. To find evidence of the destruction, one needs to go off the main mountain road into the surrounding valleys in the northern part of the district. Here, small villages and houses are scattered across the hills, some are totally destroyed, most are still standing but are damaged to the point where they are uninhabitable.

Narayan lives in a small hamlet Sadhi Dunja 1 near the town of Kuseshowor. Of the 15 houses on top of the hill, only two are still standing, both are badly cracked. People here have received tarpaulins, but there is a serious need for more robust protection as the monsoon rains will arrive in a month.

The Nepal Red Cross Society has been working closely with local authorities in Sindhuli to distribute relief goods.

“We set up 12 distribution points all over the district,” says Ashok Shresta, the district chapter’s young and enthusiastic chairman. “Together with the district authorities, the Nepal army and police we have already provided more than 8,000 tarpaulins and 6,000 more are in the pipeline.”

In recent years the district Red Cross chapter has been working with support from the Austrian and Swiss Red Cross who have built their capacity in providing eye-care services in the district as well as water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion projects.