Tarp distribution in rural Sindhupalchok

On Saturday May 30th I got the chance to travel with one of my Save the Children colleagues to monitor the ongoing distribution of tarps (robust plastic covers intended to strengthen people’s immediate emergency shelters). The distribution was in a nearby VDC (village development committee) called Sanosiruwari. For Sindhupalchok this is a relatively easily accessible VDC lying close to the district headquarters (and my new home) Chautara. However, even this short outing was still an mini-adventure…

#1 The terrain is endless ‘hills’ which only count as hills here because they pale into insignificance next to the neighbouring Himalaya. This is fair enough of course however, you and I would probably still want to call them mountains. Each community is nestled on the steep slopes, between forest and terraced farmland;

1 view

#2 Our route followed miles of winding, unpaved roads with sheer cliffs on one side and sheer drops on the other. Though this is perfectly usual for Nepal, the added challenge of piles of debris on the roads from fallen houses adds a certain additional level of obstacle to overcome;

2 road

#3 All along the route there were many more examples of damaged houses, schools and other infrastructure but also many efforts being made to rebuild and prepare for the monsoon;

3 homes

#4 In general, life continues. Whilst checking the distribution, we were passed by this line of local girls and young women harvesting greenery and carrying it in the traditional way back home to feed their livestock. En route we passed a line of water pots queueing at the communal tap. Though this was also a common pre-earthquake sight in Nepal, as the earthquake has damaged pipes and other infrastructure, caused people to move away from their usual water source or even made some natural sources dry up altogether the pressure for access to water has visibly increased. As a result, many organisations are working under the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) cluster to help restore safe drinking water as well as other critical services across the district;

4 work

#5 The smallest political division in Nepal is a ward which I have come to understand as a settlement or series or small settlements. Generally somewhere in the region of 7-9 wards make up each VDC. Then in the district of Sindhupalchok there are 79 VDCs (or 68 VDCs and 2 municipalities i.e. the two semi-urban towns). The final level of government is the VDC secretary who leads the committee. Also involved on the committee are Social Mobilisers and a Ward Citizen Forum representative from each ward who is a volunteer. On Saturday we were distributing one large tarp to each household in one specific ward. The volunteers and staff from Save the Children’s local implementation partner had been at the central meeting point of the ward since early morning noting down the details of everyone who received support, working along side the Ward Citizen Forum representative for the ward;

5 checks

#6 Critically, it was the Ward Citizen Forum representative who has a detailed list of each and every household in the ward. He was making sure everyone was covered fairly and as he pointed out – he has to live in this ward for the rest of his life so it’s in his interest to make sure no-one has any grievances with his work;

6 list

#7 The result was a calm, polite, smooth distribution of tarps to each and every household. The locals I saw and spoke to (attempting some sort of interview in Nepali, comedy value for all involved!?) knew they would all receive equal support and as is so often the case in Nepal, smiles were readily shared all around;

7 distribution

#8 So after confirmation, checking of family details and a quick signature the tarp is handed over and carried on up or down to the family’s current shelter. Hopefully increasing the space the family have to sleep in or the water-tightness of their existing shelter. The distribution of basic emergency shelter items such as tarps, blankets, sleeping mats etc. to the VDCs including those already only accessible by helicopter or a long hike will continue until every household is covered. At the same time plans for more substantial support for transitional homes is also ramping up and certainly keeping us busy in terms of logistics and coordination;

8 tarps

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