Nepal: ‘We are much better prepared if there is another flood.’
Training from WFP helps families across Nepal to prepare for and respond to disasters
Story by Monica Upadhyay
In October 2021, the village of Milanbasti in the district of Jhapa in Eastern Nepal, was hit by heavy monsoon rains. Fifteen-year-old Naren Kissuka was fishing on the banks of the swollen river when he heard the siren from the municipal office.
“It was loud and clear — it meant the water level had just crossed the warning level,” says Naren. “I jumped on my bicycle and in less than an hour I was able to relay the message to a dozen vulnerable families living next to the riverbank.”
When his community was faced with flooding, Naren knew how to respond after attending a Disaster Risk Reduction DRR) programme at his school that was run by the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
Naren, his classmates and members of his community have learnt how to prepare for and respond to disasters — critical knowledge in Nepal where families are at high risk from hazards such as earthquakes, floods and droughts.
Students in disaster-prone areas join exploratory visits where they identify the potential risks that surround their villages and then work together with their communities to create risk maps and disaster plans so that everyone can stay safe if a disaster strikes.
For Naren, it wasn’t long before he could put what he had learned in the classroom into practice. The heavy monsoon rains swept away a lot of things in his village. Crops were destroyed and huge swathes of land were submerged.
“We were left with only our clothes and important documents like my birth certificate,” says Naren.
A rescue boat arrived the following day to assist his community. Naren managed to lift his family into the boat heading for the local evacuation centre. They spent a week living in temporary shelter before they could return home
Looking back, although the floods wreaked havoc, careful disaster planning paid off. There was no loss of human life and minimal damage to property, allowing families to focus on recovery.
“Floods are something you hope will never happen,” says Naren. “Still, I am thrilled I was able to make use of my bicycle and warn people on time.”
Learning from the past to prepare for the future
After a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April 2015, 8,000 people lost their lives and over 750,000 buildings were completely or partially destroyed. Critical infrastructure such as bridges, hospitals and schools were heavily damaged.
Since then, WFP has worked to reduce the risk of disasters and build resilience in communities across the country.
In Naren’s school, students have learnt about early warning systems, how to do emergency first aid and the importance of having a go-bag that’s filled with everything a family would need if disaster strikes.
Naren is a quick learner, and he never misses a chance to tell his grandparents or others in the village about ways to prepare for and stay safe in a disaster. “He’ll come home and share with us whatever he’s done at a training, what he’s learned,” says his grandmother.
“[It] has taught us how to provide first aid to the injured immediately after rescuing them,” says Naren. “We are also trained in setting up tents and water bladders as well as evacuating villages to higher ground. We know the next flood can hit us any time.”
This was Naren’s second flood in just two years. Last year, when a forecast showed that floods were imminent, the World Food Programme, the Nepal Red Cross Society and the local government had cash grants ready to dispense. This was thanks to support from the German Federal Foreign Office.
The most vulnerable communities, which also face the highest risk, including disabled, elderly and women, were provided US$110 to buy food — rice, salt, chillies, turmeric powder as well as meet other essential needs.
“The assistance from WFP was timely and helped my grandpa who, in turn, provided us with food and other basic needs,” says Naren. “When the flood came, it submerged huge swathes of farmlands. My grandpa lost his job as an agriculture labourer, and we did not have a penny at home.”
Naren’s community feels confident it can act quickly if they face another disaster in the future. “Thanks to WFP, we are much better prepared now if there is another flood.”