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As remote as Kathmandu

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015


Proximity to the capital is not helping residents in receiving adequate and timely relief aid after the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated central Nepal on 25 April.


The town has only 60 tents for 700 families whose brick and mud homes have been completely destroyed. Photo: Gopen Rai


Despite being only 20 minutes out of the city by car, residents of Bungamati are struggling to house families in temporary shelters. The town has only 60 tents for 700 families whose brick and mud homes have been completely destroyed.

“By our estimate, each family needs at least three tents because they need to store their belongings as well as food salvaged from their damaged houses,” says Ram Khadgi of Bungamati. Cases of people hogging tents have been a major problem: residents whose houses are intact are refusing to go back due to recurring aftershocks.

“Even if certain houses are liveable, people are scared. If they could move back, there would be more space for people who desperately need shelter,” adds Khadgi, who himself lost two of his old houses in the earthquake. He is living in a third one even though it has cracks.

Bungamati earthquake

Photo: Gopen Rai

“A friend of mine gave me Rs 200,000 the other day to buy tents. I went all around Kathmandu and Bhaktapur and couldn’t get anything. It is not even a matter of money anymore,” says Khadgi, He has been trying to order tents from as far off as Banaras in India but it has been difficult.

Resources are distributed based on the ward number and a token system is employed where families can track the amount of food and water they have been receiving. While the tokens is an effort to enable equal distribution of relief aid it is not working in most areas.


In Sankhu, where 800-900 houses were destroyed, dozens of residents were seen queuing up for 30 blankets. While they lined up in single file, the distributors had to continuously prevent members of the same family from queuing together to ensure every family got at least one blanket.

Sankhu earthquake

Dozens of residents were seen queuing up for 30 blankets. Photo: Ayesha Shakya


Up the hill in Changu Narayan, residents are venting their frustration in public about random distribution of relief aid. This Lichhavi-era temple complex is the oldest known settlement in Kathmandu Valley and situated on a hilltop from where one can look down at the airport where international relief planes are landing and taking off.

“Our entire ward received only four bags of rice. We haven’t taken our share of rice yet because it is not enough,” says Hari Devi Shrestha, who lost her home and is sleeping in a tent and car. “They should keep record of family members and distribute accordingly. Right now only people who can speak up are receiving aid, people like us are helpless.”

On the other hand, other residents stated that most of the relief aid was going to people who lost their homes.

“They are prioritising those without houses when they don’t understand that most houses have cracks and are not livable. We want the army to demolish the higher floors of our houses so that we can at least live inside the ground floor of our house but they say they don’t have orders to do that,” a local resident was overheard saying.

Ayesha Shakya

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