CRS in Nepal
One of the poorest countries in the world, nearly half of Nepal's population lives below the poverty line. Ten years of conflict cost many Nepalese their lives and battered the Himalayan kingdom's already weak economy. In addition, each year Nepal experiences multiple natural disasters such as monsoon floods, landslides, fires and drought. Most parts of the country are also seismically active. Catholic Relief Services focuses primarily on supporting Caritas Nepal in emergency aid to families affected by disasters.
A major disaster occurred in April 2015 when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck between Pokhara and Kathmandu. The earthquake affected more than 8 million people and killed more than 8,000. Less than three weeks later, a second powerful earthquake hit Nepal, worsening damage in several areas of the country. With 25% of the population of Nepal living in extreme poverty, and 83% of Nepal’s people living in rural areas, the impact of the quake on lives, livelihoods and dignity was immense.
Within hours of the earthquake, CRS had released pre-positioned stocks of emergency shelter materials, water and hygiene kits, and blankets. CRS and Caritas Nepal targeted 15,000 households in the most affected areas in Lamjung, Gorkha, Dhading and Nuwakot districts, and, based on communities’ needs, supplied emergency shelter, blankets, plastic mats, emergency latrines, tools, water treatment and personal hygiene kits. Following this immediate relief, CRS and Caritas Nepal provided corrugated iron sheets, sanitation materials, and cash as transitional support for households to support shelter and basic needs during the monsoon season from June to August.
From 2016 to 2019, CRS will work with the Government of Nepal, local partners and communities to assist earthquake-affected families in Gorkha and neighboring districts to achieve a safe and dignified life while increasing their ability to mitigate the impact of future disasters.
CRS and partners are training skilled masons and semi-skilled laborers to provide the physical backbone and technical experience required to reconstruct an estimated 72,955 earthquake-damaged homes over the next 3-5 years. Trainings cover key areas of earthquake-resistant construction, including a range of safe construction tools, measures and techniques to be used with relevant materials such as stone, mud, concrete and bamboo. CRS has invested in bamboo research and design, reducing the cost of construction, reducing the environmental impact (by replacing the use of timber), and opening the door for future progress toward livelihood opportunities for the small-scale cottage industry (in the treatment of bamboo).
CRS is also working to help people diversify their income generating options and supporting communities to rehabilitate communal, productive assets. CRS capitalizes on Build Back Safer activities to provide improved livelihood options to communities, and even those with no experience are gaining marketable skills through trainings provided by the project.
In addition, CRS and partners are training community members on construction and maintenance of earthquake-resistant latrines. Trainings promote safer sanitation infrastructure and provide a new skill set to trainees, which will increase their livelihood options. Over 1 million WASH-related items have been distributed to households and health posts, including soaps, toothbrushes, water purifying tablets, sanitary cloths and other items.
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CRS' History in Nepal
CRS has been working with Caritas Nepal since the 1970s, and has been supporting Caritas Nepal in emergency response, capacity building and disaster management since 2005. Caritas Nepal is the social arm of the Catholic Church in Nepal, providing support to marginalized and vulnerable communities. Given the magnitude of natural disasters affecting Nepal each year, CRS began supporting Caritas Nepal in emergency response efforts.
CRS’ ability to rapidly assess and address needs in the aftermath of disasters in Nepal, like the 2015 earthquakes, is thanks to a strong and long-running partnership between CRS and Caritas Nepal. Caritas and CRS are able to mobilize local volunteers through grassroots networks and community-based organization contacts in Nepal.