Nepal (MNN) — As tensions of the past year finally settle down, Nepal’s earthquake anniversary is imperative to long-term recovery.
One year ago today, Nepal experienced a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by hundreds of aftershocks and a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on May 12. Between the two earthquakes, roughly 9,000 people were killed and more than 22,000 were injured.
According to reports from the Nepali government last year, between $5 to 10 billion (USD) were lost in damages of infrastructure. BBC reports more than 800,000 houses were damaged or destroyed. Historical sites and entire villages collapsed.
“There [were] always challenges of access infrastructure, always challenges of healthcare services, water, electricity, things like that. But the earthquake really exacerbated those types of problems and issues,” Baptist Global Response’s (BGR) Executive Director, Jeff Palmer, says.
2.4 million people were affected, most of whom were instantly made homeless, orphans, or widows.
Aid organizations and the Nepali government rushed to help survivors with food, water, and temporary shelter. Yet, due to roads being cut off by landslides, and the isolation of the Gorkha and Sindhupalchok districts – where the earthquakes hit the hardest — there was very little support actually brought to the people.
“Folks could get into the capital, Kathmandu, and that’s what the news was showing as where the damage was. But really, it was more in the outlying areas.”
A majority of Nepalis weren’t prepared for the disaster, but just weeks before the April 25 earthquake, BGR “had done a training with national partners, Nepali believers in-country for responding to disasters. And, we used earthquake as a model because that’s common in that Himalayan country.”
When the earthquake hit, an indigenous team was already equipped and ready to start with assessment and initial response.
Later, a BGR team and volunteers linked arms with the nationals.
“We worked in about 10 to 12 different communities in the two districts [Gorkha and Sindhupalchok],” Palmer says.
“We kind of identified areas [where] nobody else was working and we chose those as our impact areas; we mobilized our volunteers from overseas, we connected with the local church in Nepal. And, in those areas, we would go into a community of 1,000 homes…and every home was completely destroyed.”
With the help of its supporters, BGR has touched the lives of close to 60,000 people in the hardest-hit areas. Teams have brought in medical healthcare, psycho-social counseling, food supplies, and temporary housing.
Because the earthquake happened just before the rainy season, it was impossible to restore or rebuild permanent homes. BGR built Quonset huts to act as temporary shelters for the displaced.
Today, on the earthquake anniversary, the team is transitioning its efforts to building nearly 600 permanent homes.
“With the local community, with the government, and with the local church, we’ve identified about 550 to 600 priority families that can’t get back into a permanent home,” Palmer says. Widows, the elderly, the disabled, and single-headed householders will receive much-needed permanent housing.
About 100 homes have been built so far, but over the next few months, the rest are scheduled to be set up. Though small, these homes will be made of cement, wood, and a tin roof, so they’ll be more earthquake-resistant.
Though one of the biggest disasters in years, the earthquake was but one of two tragedies to hit the third-world nation in 2015.
The Nepal Blockade
Following the end of the Nepali Civil War in 2006, an interim constitution sat in place for nine years. After the earthquake, the Nepali government resolved to make an official constitution, and declare the nation secular.
Protests and attacks from indigenous and out-of-country radical Hindus erupted immediately.
“In the midst of…the earthquake, and the mess that was going on with the poverty that the country experienced, and the change over the government, there were other countries that boycotted [Nepal]. They were angry, they didn’t necessarily agree with the decisions of the Nepali people.”
A major blockade was put up along the borders between India and landlocked Nepal in late September.
Nepal blamed India for imposing the blockade after India demanded changes over the constitution. India denied responsibility for the blockade and pointed fingers at the Madhesi protestors. Tensions between the two countries rose.
Importing medical, earthquake relief supplies, and fuel supplies became nearly impossible. Whereas 300 fuel trucks might enter into Nepal on a daily basis, only 5 to 10 were getting in once blockades took effect. Lines for gasoline stretched for miles.
China offered a hand of support, bringing in a limited amount of supplies across harsh roads. While it helped, there was still a much greater physical need than could be met. Residents couldn’t heat water, cook, or be mobile. The restrictions quickly grew into a choke hold.
“It affected the people a whole lot worse than any organization,” Palmer says. “It affected the ability to deliver goods to build homes, to deliver food to needy communities, to provide medical and healthcare access to places and to people.”
But, Palmer notes the resilience of the Nepali people, and their will to stay strong despite the overwhelming circumstances.
On February 3, 2016, the blockade ended after months of protests and negotiations between the Madhesi and the Nepali government. But, it didn’t end before bans on religious conversion were made, so as not to “undermine or jeopardize” the religions of the people.
Any national who converts is faced with five years of imprisonment and a 50,0000-rupee penalty.
The law has restricted evangelism, but the Church has stepped up even more — ministering to the communities, providing supplies, and showing Christ’s love and encouragement.
“I think there’s always in Nepal…barriers to the Gospel. I think that the opportunities that we’ve had to show compassion has been wonderful to break down a lot of those barriers,” Palmer says.
One year after the Nepal earthquake – what’s changed?
Communities resistant to outsiders and the Church have let down their guard after the earthquake, realizing believers are there to love and support them. People have started listening to the Gospel and accepting Christ as their Lord.
“Nothing can stop the Gospel going forth. The Church that steps out of the walls and loves people, and cares for them in the midst of their needs, it’s just an amazing way for making Christ known.”
Supporters like you have helped raise $1.6 million for Nepal through BGR. Palmer shares how your support has saved and changed lives, bringing more followers into the Great Commission in a recent video.
Will you please pray for the nation that has lost so much over the last 12 months? Will you pray for the work BGR is doing? And, will you support further efforts of BGR to restore and minister to the Nepali people?