7.8 – a fatal number for Nepal. It’s the magnitude of the April 25th earthquake that shook the country almost two years ago. The Great Gorkha Earthquake and its hundreds of aftershocks, including a 7.3 one on May 12th 2015, killed nearly 9000 people and left more than 600,000 homes across the country damaged beyond repair. Centuries-old cultural heritage sites have been lost. It was the worst natural disaster to befall Nepal in more than eighty years.
Almost two years on, the reconstruction of Nepal is stalling. People in rural areas, the most severe affected by the quake, are still living in improvised sheds or under tin board roofs, their generations-old homes completely ruined or far from regaining their traditional look. Despite the international community’s generous pledge to rebuilding the country, the promised money has yet to reach the people in need. According to Cold Feet Foundation Nepal, a local NGO working in the affected areas, people have so far received only 500 USD from the government in compensation for losing their homes. That amount is far from sufficient to help people start over.
Nepal has been one of the least developed countries in Asia, with a precarious infrastructure and a per capita income comparable to the poorest countries in the world, previous conditions that could only harden the rebuilding of the country. Furthermore, uncertainties regarding regulations and new building codes have dragged even more the reconstruction process. All considered, for the earthquake victims this means just more time and yet another monsoon season living in improvised shelters.
Odd enough, when life hardships hit in a scenery like the one bestowed upon Nepal, they tend to weight less. The almost peerless beauty of nature and the goodness of people somehow manage to compensate for the shortcomings. Nepal is a place where happiness goes by a different definition, where in the eyes of a child who has to walk for two hours to get to school one sees joy of having arrived rather than road fatigue. But that does not mean that Nepal does not need to be rebuilt.
My photo story from Nepal published by Al Jazeera English.