When a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal half a year ago on April 25th, 2015, Saraswati Purkoti was devastated. "I was cutting grass on the hill with my son when the earth started trembling. We hugged each other, crying. After some time we ran down to the village, only to find that the house had gone. I felt my life had ended," recounts 40-year-old Purkoti. The single mother of three had lost her home and her job as a day laborer. In Purkoti's district, 177 people lost their lives, 24% of the houses were destroyed, and 149 of 200 government schools collapsed.
In the first four weeks following the earthquake, Week of Compassion's partner, ACT Alliance, was engaged in emergency, life sustaining activities, distributing ready-to-eat food and two week's food rations to 34,207 households; nonfood items to 41,541 households; tarps for emergency shelter to 33,398 households; and family water treatment and personal hygiene kits to 12,021 households.
"The interventions consist of relatively small amounts and may not seem much to some, but they have the potential to prevent starvation and abject poverty among earthquake survivors," says Emergency Response Manager Sufi Mohammed Faiz. "Some cry when we hand over materials. They tell us it's the first time anyone ever reached out to them. They say, 'Now we can live with more dignity and respect.'"
Six months after the earthquake, with Week of Compassion's support, ACT Alliance has moved from providing emergency relief to recovery.
The organization and its partners will be supporting the construction of permanent shelters for the most vulnerable, including single-headed households, the elderly and people living with disabilities. The families will also receive livelihood support, in the form of seeds, tools and training. Broken water systems will be repaired, hygiene improved and psychosocial support continued.
People like Purkoti are among the poorest of the poor, and were already living on the edge before the earthquake. They belong to Dalit, or artisan communities, who despite the eradication of the caste system, tend to face discrimination in all spheres of life. Some 35,000 people in Purkoti's district--10 percent of the population--live below the poverty line. One-third of the population has no access to safe drinking water; sixteen percent of the children are malnourished. Only one in five adults can read and write. Some villages are located over 70 km from the city, and some of them are completely inaccessible during monsoon season.
With less work available after the earthquake, Purkoti no longer knew how to survive after the distribution of relief goods ended. Act Alliance encouraged her to rent a piece of land for vegetable farming. The woman, looking weak after months of hunger, received seeds, tools and materials to build a simple greenhouse. In two months, she earned 8,000 Nepali Rupies ($428) from selling vegetables. Most Nepalese people live on just $14 a month. Thanks to your support to Week of Compassion, Purkoti and thousands more have survived the disaster and are now flourishing.
This article was edited from the October 20th 2015 article "Live with more dignity and respect" by our ACT Alliance partner, Lutheran World Information.
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Where You Built Relationships with Struggling Neighbors