Victims of last November’s Doti earthquake spend cold winter months under thin tarpaulin

It has been three months since Majite Saud, a 70-year-old man from Uparkada in Purbichauki Rural Municipality-5, lives in a tent. He has been spending the cold winter months under a tarpaulin tent since losing his home to the November 9 earthquake.

Six people died, seven were injured and hundreds were displaced by a magnitude 6.6 earthquake that hit Purbichauki Rural Municipality.

In addition to Purbichauki, Dipayal Silgadhi township and Shikhar township were also severely affected. About 500 houses were completely damaged and another 4,500 were partially damaged in these local units.

Since then, hundreds of earthquake victims have been living in temporary shelters in nearby areas.

Thirty-four people, including Majite, from eight families, live under one tent in Uparkada to fight the cold. The current temperature in the area is six degrees Celsius.

Saud, who is an asthma patient, says his health condition is deteriorating day by day due to his poor living conditions. “I’ve suffered from asthma for the last 20 years, but it’s never been worse than this year,” he said. “We all sleep on the cold, hard ground pressed together to keep warm.”

Saud’s house suffered extensive damage from the quake and the fear of the roof falling over his head is preventing him from returning home, he says.

Rambha Saud, a 30-year-old woman, is eight months pregnant. She is one of 34 victims sharing the same tent. Since the beginning of winter, she has had to visit the health center in Chaukhute in Ward No. 5 four times to cure colds and coughs.

In addition to her own health, she is concerned about the health of her unborn child.

“We lived here as prisoners in the tent. I have not been able to take care of my unborn child. We can’t make a fire in the tarpaulin tent to keep ourselves warm. The roof itself is starting to leak,” Rambha said. “Our house was made of mud, stones and wood. The earthquake completely destroyed it, so we have nowhere else to go.”

According to her, the elderly, pregnant women and children suffer from coughs and colds. “We all live in appalling conditions and most of us are sick,” she said.

Ram Prasad Pathak, head of the health department of Purbichauki rural municipality, said the displaced victims show physical and psychological problems caused by the displacement. “There are currently more than 200 pregnant women and more than 300 asthma patients in the earthquake-hit Purbichauki area. Most of the earthquake victims who lost their homes live in tents with no protection from the cold. If this continues, more people are at risk of becoming ill and there is also a shortage of medicines in the municipality,” he said.

Khante Saud, one of the displaced victims, says government authorities have shown no interest in their plight. Authorities have not even completed the initial report of the quake, he said.

“Although tarpaulins, blankets and warm clothes were distributed by the local unit and various charities, they are not enough,” said Khante. “They need to resettle us before our condition gets worse. The authorities have not even announced any rehabilitation programs for us.”

According to Kalpana Shrestha, chief district officer, there are plans to build temporary houses for the displaced, but construction work on the project has only just begun. “The Nepal Cross Society will build 200 houses in collaboration with the Community Development Center, a non-governmental organization, and Upekshit Samudaya Sashaktikaran Tatha Bikas Manch, also a non-governmental organization, will build 150 temporary houses,” said Shrestha.

Lakshiram Kunwar, chairman of the Nepalese Red Cross, Doti, said construction of the temporary house has been delayed due to legal issues. “Those issues have now been resolved and construction on the house started on Tuesday,” he said.

Victims of last November’s Doti earthquake spend cold winter months under thin tarpaulin

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