25 Jul 2015

Nepal rebuilding 'a race against time'

4:52 pm on 25 July 2015

There are still huge unmet needs in Nepal following the devastating earthquakes that hit the impoverished country three months ago today, according to the Red Cross.

The quakes killed 8,844 people and 800,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed in the worst such disaster Nepal had experienced since 1934.

A candle lit vigil in Kathmandu on 25 May, a month after the deadly earthquake struck the Himalayan nation.

A candle lit vigil in Kathmandu on 25 May, taken a month after the deadly earthquake struck the Himalayan nation. Photo: AFP

The Red Cross said the most pressing issue at the moment was shelter, as the country is now in monsoon season.

The aid agency has been distributing relief shelter kits which contain tarpaulins, blankets and ropes along with basic tool kits.

The South Asias communication's manager for the International Federation of Red Cross, Rosemarie North, has been in Nepal for three weeks.

"Nepal might have disappeared off the news agenda, but there's still huge unmet needs here."

"It's quite a complicated picture in Nepal because it's so mountainous and at the moment we're in the Monsoon season, so we're making almost hour-by-hour assessments of where we can go and how we can deliver relief to people."

She said the monsoon season made things difficult with sanitation and hygeine.

"The monsoon is a particularly trying time from a health point of view, and we're doing a lot of monitoring to see [if there is] an increase in diarrheal disaeses.

"We've got safe points, and we're training people to use aqua tabs to purify water. We also do quite a lot of hygiene promotion through schools and community groups."

The Red Cross have been training people on building a shelter that will withstand the rain and the wind and not rip your tarp.

Ms North said she had been visiting families living on a hillside in Rasuwa District whose houses were badly damaged, and they were living in "basically animal shelters under tarps."

She said they would not be able to rebuild their shelters until after the Monsoon season.

"At that time, it will be a race against time before winter sets in."

She said the building materials people had got to work with were things like corrugated iron which gave very little insulation against the cold.

The Red Cross has also been distributing unconditional cash grants of 15,000 rupee, or NZD$222, to people who can decide what they most need.

Ms North said the Red Cross worked with local and central government to identify who is in need and extablish a beneficiary list looking after the worst affected, primarily households led by women, disabled people and the elderly.

The Himalayan Trust said it too a huge job ahead in fixing or rebuilding 20 schools in Nepal once the monsoon season is over.

Director Prue Smith said building schools in the Solukhumbu mountain region was challenging and expensive because most of the supplies need to be portered or helicoptered in.

She said the task was outside the trust's past experience but it hoped to start building next month.

The trust was set up in 1960 by Sir Edmund Hillary to raise money for schools in Nepal.

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