The poorest are the hardest hit in rural Nepal


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Nepal Poverty Map
Nepal Poverty Map @World Bank

While Kathmandu is steadily fighting to get back to some sense of normalcy, the situation is very different outside the capital where all districts around Kathmandu and between Kathmandu and the tourist town of Pokhara have been very severely affected. Relief supplies - food, water, shelter and medical aid, are slowly starting to move into these areas. Let no one be mistaken, the Nepal earthquake while having impacted parts of Kathmandu quite severely is also a rural disaster of huge proportions.

The World Bank South Asia Disaster Risk Management team and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) arrived in Kathmandu on Thursday to start planning for the post-disaster damage and needs assessment, discuss with the government a planning process for transitioning into early and mid-term recovery and help support the Nepal World Bank office coordinate with other development partners.

We visited the older neighborhoods of Bhaktapur, Basantpur and Patan in the Kathmandu Valley. A majority of the collapsed houses in these areas were old brick and mud structures that had become weak with age. These were densely built neighborhoods with narrow streets and removing debris from the area is extremely challenging. We also visited an area called Gongabu, a relatively new developed suburb with tall framed-structure buildings. We found a lot of collapsed buildings and many 5-6 storey buildings completely tilted which will have to be demolished. These type of suburbs are going to pose a big challenge in Kathmandu.

From Gorkha, epicenter of the earthquake

Over the past few evenings we have been meeting journalists returning from the field. A journalist who had returned from Gorkha, the epicenter of the earthquake, described an area that had been very severely impacted. The roads were not passable and he had to walk over 5 kilometers to access villages. Every cluster of hamlets he visited, he found almost all the houses to have collapsed. Families had lost all their stock of grain, which is usually stored inside the house, and were trying to dig through the rubble to salvage whatever they could. This story repeats in most other rural districts that have seen major devastation. Early estimates seem to indicate that more than 300,000 houses completely collapsed. Some of these districts like Gorkha, Rasuwa, Sindhuli, Ramechhap are amongst the poorest districts in Nepal with poverty incidence as high as 51-80% in some areas. The poorest have been the hardest hit. Recovery in these areas is going to be that much more difficult and yet there lies a huge opportunity to overcome poverty through smart and targeted recovery actions.

A race against time and nature in Nepal

In a month, the monsoon season will start in Nepal. Once the rains arrive, it is going to be practically impossible to get any kind of heavy vehicle carrying building materials into these mountain regions. Winter will then follow in 5 months and a lot of these areas experience snowfall and very low temperatures. This means we need to start finding workable solutions to address immediate shelter needs. This is a huge challenge.

For Nepal, the key is to start planning early recovery while the relief phase is ongoing. It is only nine days since the disaster hit but for the hundreds of thousands of families in rural Nepal, time is not on their side. 



Saurabh Dani

Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist

Shankar Narayanan
May 06, 2015

Well done Saurabh on providing a glimpse of the extensive damage in rural areas and most importantly the expected challenges from the impending monsoons and severe winter thereafter... The South Asia DRM team is surely challenged to assist the recovery process in very difficult circumstances and I commend you, Deepak Singh and other DRM colleagues for making the time to visit and provide us with this graphic update....Knowing the dimensions of the disaster is clearly step 1 of planning and your blog does a great job of the same. Thank you.....

Rajeev Jha
May 19, 2015

Most of the population was awake when disaster stuck in Nepal. What would happen if it came in the late night (even in the current magnitude human loss is huge).The same intensity would have created mayhem. It is true that current disaster in terms of damage rural is rural nature but disaster doesn’t differentiate, implementation of development planning, policy makes the difference. In my point of view apart from the intense academic debate and producing readable reports current approach of Disaster Management has fails to deliver on the ground. Nepal has well written Disaster Management Plan and elaborates defined structure that works from top to bottom. But all these efforts become fruitless when disaster struck. In South Asia, countries have not given enough importance to structural mitigation measures. Not one building is retrofitted. Barring few, roads are not been constructed with a vision to be disaster resilient. Even the built back better concepts generally applied in post disaster situation have not deep rooted within the policy makers and government mechanism. In a particular to Earthquake whose prognosis is difficult, humans have no alternative but to adhere the basics of disaster management. Mock drills, at least in each quarter have to become mandatory among critical places. House disaster management plan should be advocated vigorously. More often the work in the direction of reducing the impact of local disaster that affects us on daily basis would be another important step. Lot many times consequence of small event leads to bigger disaster. Working in this direction brings the culture of disaster management. In most of the Indian cities inspite having government notified laws, traffic policemen are grappling with riders to wear to helmet or take a seat belt. It’s an anecdote that how difficult to implement the disaster management guidelines whose forecast is so difficult. How many disaster we need to learn the lesson?

Fauzia Qureshi
May 07, 2015

I used my students of the department of architecture national college of arts lahore Pakistan to assist in the emergency relief and subsequently in the reconstruction program - do want to assist in developing emergency earthquake resistant housing I can be physically available if connected to an institute / organisation

May 07, 2015

We have to plan three distinct and specific plan of action for normalized the situation and rapid recovery of the socio economic scenario.
Short term one year plan rescue, rehabilitation and humanitarian camping for food and settlement in temporary home.
Assessment of micro and macro economic losses along with human and social short, medium and long term impact in the economy.
Established a broad based multisectoral Reconstruction and redevelopment fund.
Make a plan schedule of six month to distribute food, medicine and other lively hood means.
start some sort of economic activity for production and Employment generation
Make a reconstruction and rebuilding action plan in various sector where damage and destruction occurred
Make a three year plan with the collaboration of national and international development partner
Go in action to achieve result in five year.

May 13, 2015

You are right. The planning for early, mid-term and long-term recovery has to start in the early days following any disaster. In Nepal, the recovery planning is progressing very well and quite rapidly.

binita nyaichyai
May 10, 2015

isn't it possible to manage firm shelter before monsoon starts there??

Eva Kasell
May 10, 2015

EDWON is working with the Dalit community in Gorkha. Poeple are desperately poor, and now many of the families are homeless. Specific communities that need emergency relief now-- and help rebuilding are the following: Taklung VDC, Manakamana, Bakgrang, Bhogteni, Fujel, Ghairung, Bunkot.

Nabaraj Thapa
May 11, 2015

I recently visited Gorkha & most of effected areas that hits thier poverty and it takes another decade to recover present economy condition. World bank should come with plan to help those people to getrid off from poverty. If you need any assistance for Gorkha part i can help yiu on this as a local person from effected areas.

Krishna Sharma
May 14, 2015

Dear World Bank leadership,
Please inspire governments to follow decentralization. They hear you. When you tell them you would not offer loan if loans are spent on cities or towns, they will do. Please do something more than profiling these reports which are no news to any. Everyone knows disasters hit the poor. Rich people escape.

Sanjeeta Pant
May 20, 2015

Pokhara is not one of the affected areas. It maybe be indirectly affected in terms of declining number of toursits due to the earthquake, but it is definitely not one of the areas to have sustained major damage to infrastructure or had human casulaties. Here is a map of those areas directly affected by the earthquake…