“I am so sad,” Kanchi Bajgain tells us. “We haven’t been able to salvage anything from inside the house, just a few blankets and a cupboard. Everything is gone.”
All six members of Kanchi’s family survived the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal on 25 April, killing over 7,000 people and injuring thousands more.
But now they, like so many others across the country, must come to terms with the long-term devastation the disaster has left in its wake.
A long road to recovery
Kanchi lives in the village of Nala, in the Kavre district of Nepal. WaterAid has been working with the community here for nearly five years, installing a gravity-fed water scheme, waterpoints and toilets.
The village is arranged around a winding road up a terraced mountainside, where farmers work hard to grow wheat, potatoes, corn and other vegetables for the markets in Kathmandu.
But since the quake, more than half the homes now lie in ruins. And while the gravity-flow systems are largely still intact — meaning survivors do at least have access to water — the supply is less frequent and more dirty than before, while the disconnected pipes and broken taps that litter the ground indicate how much repair work will need to be done here.
For 20-year-old Sushmita Bagjain, the pressure of taking care of her three-month-old son in these circumstances is taking a heavy toll.
Her neighbours dug her out of the rubble when her father-in-law’s house collapsed during the earthquake. Now her injuries have left her in pain and unable to walk properly, and she spends most of her days under a blanket on the ground, in a makeshift shelter of metal sheeting propped up with bits of salvaged wood against the hillside.
“My injuries have made it hard for me to breastfeed my child,” she explains. “I am not able to boil water for the baby and I can’t keep him clean. I am able to wash some of his clothes but not as I did before.”
Reaching the most vulnerable
At Chandeshwari Higher Secondary School, the Nepalese army and police force are providing shelter and aid to those in greatest need in Nala.
It is also where WaterAid and our local partner, the Centre for Integrated Urban Development (CIUD), are distributing essential hygiene kits to help families keep clean and healthy in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Typical items in the kits include soap, shampoo, washing powder, nail clippers, sanitary towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste, while face masks, oral rehydration salts and jugs of toilet disinfectant are also being distributed.
These apparently simple items can have a huge impact in an emergency. For 42-year-old Sushila Sighdel, whose family are already getting ill in the unsanitary conditions created by the quake, these vital supplies could not come soon enough.
“My husband died five months ago and I am living alone with my four children,” she says.
“My house has been badly damaged. It’s not safe to live there. We still have access to water, but the toilet has been damaged, so we have built a makeshift one, a hole with some plastic sheeting inside.
“My children have diarrhoea and headaches. I have also had headaches for the last several days. My daughter has been taking rehydration salts — this help is a relief.”
The first steps to rebuilding lives
Nala is just one of the communities where we’re providing emergency water and sanitation support to the people of Nepal.
After a disaster, we know how important it is to make sure those affected can access safe water and dispose of human waste safely, helping to prevent potentially deadly outbreaks of diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid.
That’s why, together with a Ministry of Health immunisation programme, our partners are providing hygiene kits to 6,000 households — around 33,000 people — across the country.
And with water purification a significant cause for concern, our teams will be distributing thousands of water purification tablets to those affected.
Importantly, we are also here for the long term. Drawing on the last 20 years of our work in Nepal, we’re committed to the essential rebuilding of water and sanitation services — including in the Gorkha district, the epicentre of the quake, where much of our work is concentrated — a first step in helping the people of Nepal recover.
Help us support communities to begin rebuilding their lives, now and in the future. Donate to our Nepal earthquake appeal here >
If we raise funds over and above the support needed in Nepal, your gift will be used to bring water and sanitation to those who need it the most. Thank you.
All photography: WaterAid/Ravi Mishra