After Kahramanmaras earthquake. Learning from the People of Nepal.
As published in Arabic on bukhari.blog
In composing this blog entry, I drew inspiration from a 2016 blog post by Krity Bajracharya, written in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that hit his hometown in Nepal. The post recounts the events of the preceding year, giving readers an intimate look at the impact of the quake on his city and its residents.
Perched on the peaks of the Himalayas, Nepal is a tiny, landlocked nation nestled between China and India. In April 2015, the country was hit by a catastrophic earthquake, akin to the one that struck Turkey and Syria in recent year. The quake in Nepal registered a magnitude of 7.8, followed by another one with a magnitude of 6.7, echoing similar earthquakes that have occurred in the southern mountains of Turkey. These earthquakes resulted in the displacement of around 3.5 million people, as well as the loss of 9000 lives and injury of 22,000 Nepalese individuals.
The death of thousands may have seemed like a blessing compared to the difficulties faced by the people in the aftermath of the earthquake. The population was faced with displacement, a shortage of medical and health services due to the destruction of buildings and hospitals, and a loss of access to clean drinking water — all of which were the most harrowing experiences.
Nepal is not a desert country, but is located on top of the mountains of the world, where there is plenty of greenery and water. However, due to earthquakes, many communities lost their clean drinking water sources after sewage mixed with fresh water. Then, politics played a role in hindering relief and reconstruction efforts, while Nepal, this small country, is between the residences of the giant China and India.
Krity Bajracharya, a Nepalese resident, witnessed the earthquake and experienced many horrors that took place during that period. Despite that, Krity says, “No matter what the situation was, we never surrendered.” In the following days after the disaster, light aftershocks and seismic vibrations continued, rumors about more devastating earthquakes spread, causing anxiety that prevented people from sleeping and waves of panic that flooded hospitals with post-trauma stress cases.
Krity recounts that the people did not fully grasp the shock of the earthquake before two weeks had passed since its occurrence. The priority was to provide shelter for the displaced, and many people gathered in school buildings. The focus then shifted to securing these schools and facilitating services, as the earthquakes had disrupted water supplies, sanitation, and electricity. The initial concern was for the survivors and ensuring their well-being.
At the beginning of the third week after the disaster, Krity, along with many experts like him, began to organize workshops aimed at raising awareness among people about water behavior, hygiene and health, cleanliness sensitivity. From school to school, they educated their fellow survivors on how to maintain cleanliness and stay in good health during these difficult times.
People realized that water is the most important thing in the situation, as its pollution will result in the spread of diseases and escalate the disaster to have even more severe consequences than the earthquake itself.
Therefore, people are urged to purchase and install water purification systems everywhere, in every school and home. The wealthy are stepping up to provide the necessary funds to secure several homes as if they were buying for themselves, as long as they can. People have agreed to pool their resources so that all Nepalese can drink clean water to be able to tackle the remaining problems.
The people of Nepal were then shocked by India’s decision to close its borders with Nepal, which resulted in a halt of imports of essential supplies for reconstruction, such as fuel, building materials, and equipment. This second disaster led to a scarcity of fuel in a country where the earthquake had already damaged the power grid. This resulted in intense competition among the people to get fuel, which in turn caused fear and resentment. According to Krity, the people were initially supportive and cooperative with each other after the earthquake, but the fuel crisis widened the divide and fueled fear and animosity. This is the mistake of India.
According to Krity, with the support of the Nepali people and other relief agencies, the communities began rebuilding. A year after the disaster, families found new homes and some returned to normal life, which is a natural occurrence. However, for many, the fear of another disaster and uncertainty hindered their recovery. The fear still lingered in the hearts of the people, creating expectations of another earthquake and repeating the tragedy. Even a full year later, people still lived as if they had just escaped the earthquake yesterday.
Even a year later, says Krity, we still need more work on water sources to achieve full coverage of water, sanitation, and hygiene services at 100% in all 650 public schools in the Kathmandu Valley. The schools are striving to bring students back to permanent buildings and remove them from temporary shelters, but this slow process is dependent on government funding and is expected to take two to three years.
The conditions in the affected area in Syria after the devastating earthquake are not much different from the conditions in Nepal, except for the prompt access allowed for intervention organizations in Nepal. The number of displaced individuals is high, and the disaster is huge. We see how a year has passed since the disaster, and people are near the completion of the first step of recovery, but what follows. These disasters take time for people to recover from, but the most important thing is to focus on maintaining public health, as without it, people are unable to address any other issues.
It is important for us to realize that areas affected by earthquakes require years of recovery, even in countries with effective governments. This means that aid solutions must be of a long-term nature, rather than immediate short-term solutions. The victims in Syria and Turkey need long-term aid solutions to help them recover from the shock of more than a hundred earthquakes that hit their cities and towns in a single day. It is crucial that we support them in their recovery process and provide them with the necessary resources and assistance to rebuild their lives and communities.
Donating a little money today will not improve the conditions of the refugees and will not solve all of their problems. While it may appease your conscience, it will not provide relief to those who are suffering. Therefore, focus on supporting organizations that strive for long-term solutions, such as providing clean water, sustainable energy, and promoting development. The latter will come later.
My heart is with those who are suffering in Turkey and Syria. I send them love and my best wishes for comfort during these difficult times.