As usual these days, it has been a while since my last post and even longer since I updated on my work here in Nepal and what it is that’s keeping me too busy to write more blog posts… As I wrote back in February, since January this year I’ve been working as the Project Coordinator for something called the National Disaster Recovery Coordination Secretariat (NDRCS). It’s been four, action packed months since we started, with a lot happening to say the least. Here are some snippets to bring you u to speed;
The political unrest, which saw the border with India blockaded leading to acute fuel shortages for over four months, has eased enabling fuel supplies to be restored and getting the many fuel-hungry lorries, buses, cars and motorbikes back onto congested and polluted streets. Though mysteriously cooking gas still remains hard to come by (I’m still eeking mine out…) With the main agitating parties considering their concerns unresolved however, the future remains uncertain. Demonstrated by the fact that active protests started up again this week, newly focussed on the seat of parliament and the president’s residence in Kathmandu.
However, back to my little world of post-earthquake reconstruction; within the Gender and Inclusive Governance program of VSO we’ve built up a small, dedicated team of national and international experts in the Secretariat to focus on supporting the earthquake affected districts through the District Lead Support Agencies (DLSAs).
The NDRCS team have visited all of the 14 most earthquake affected districts at least once. Meeting with the DLSA teams in each district and through them reviewing current coordination and information management successes and challenges with Government officials and partner I/NGOs. The team have also visited partner’s project sites and learned more about achievements and current activities in sectors such as housing, education and health;
I personally joined when I could, here for example visiting one of Gorkha DLSA Oxfam’s livelihoods projects in Gorkha district;
In February I also joined the UN Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and cluster co-lead for Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) IOM in visiting and reviewing of a selection of settlements for internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Kathmandu valley. Here, life continues at a site located in an open market square area in central Bhaktapur. These families are living within sight of their heavily damaged homes which, due to being in a tightly packed urban setting, will be technically extremely difficult and potentially dangerous to demolish;
Some settlements were beautifully set up and maintained for example this one on the outskirts of a village called Khokana in Lalitpur district. Even so, life is uncertain as residents do not know how long they will need to live in these temporary conditions given the extensive damage to their homes. In this case homes are also an ancient heritage site requiring careful, complicated and ultimately expensive restoration techniques. This local lady was more than pleased to show us the added insulation techniques she had employed to help minimise the impact of condensation forming and dripping inside on cold winter nights;
On a national level, the Secretariat has been working to provide regular updates to DFID, the DLSA teams and AIN members on Government policy, situational context and project process. During this period the formation and realisation of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has taken place – a newly established Government body mandate with facilitating, coordinating and monitoring all post-earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation activities across 31 affected districts. The NRA is responsible for mobilising partners to support the Government’s activities so I’ve been working as part of a team to support in clarifying and resolving issues around the establishment of new processes and policies whilst also ensuring ground truths from the DLSAs and NDRCS team in the field are being represented and taken into account.
Plus, having seemingly just gotten through winter with the Government and many agencies providing additional winterisation support for those who lost their homes and were facing severely cold living conditions, it’s time to be planning for the upcoming monsoon. The Secretariat has been working alongside the UN and DRR experts to revise the planning to include the possibility of secondary impacts in the earthquake affected districts as well as preparedness for the historically flood affected districts. Ultimately the DLSAs will support the district Government in revising their district Disaster Preparedness and Response Plans (DPRPs) – but with as much help from the national level as possible!
Image courtesy of UN-RCO Nepal.
As a result of VSO Nepal’s overall response to the earthquake including the coordination piece I have been a part of, VSO International is reviewing and updating its global approach to disaster management and response. In addition, as validation of the NDRCS concept, VSO Nepal has committed its own funding, to extend beyond the initial DFID project period, directly supporting 5 partner organisations, employ 7 district based DLSA staff to support coordination and information management in 9 of the most affected districts through to October. At the same time we’re working on demonstrating the achievements of the Secretariat so far and clarifying the vision for the next 2-5 years ready for approaching interested donors.
Combining all of this, together with VSO’s 50+ years of working in Nepal, the Gender and Inclusive Governance team are now working on preparation of how VSO’s unique approach can be integrated into a large scale consortium approach for DFID’s upcoming post-earthquake reconstruction bid after attending a recent Early Market Engagement Workshop. Exciting times ahead!