May 26, 2020

On April 25th, 2015, a 7.8M earthquake and a second one on May 12th measuring 7.3M hit the central part of Nepal sending powerful tremors through most parts of Nepal. Thousands of subsequent aftershocks of varying sizes followed for months. The trail of destruction claimed 8,700 souls and injured more than 60,000. Hundreds of thousands of houses were destroyed leaving millions homeless. Many houses that didn’t crumble sustained structural damages and remained standing precariously. For several months after the quake, many people were forced to live in tarpaulin tents and substandard shelters constructed with materials salvaged from their destroyed homes and materials provided by development agencies and the government.

The immediate need and the most urgent demand of the affected families was safe and durable temporary shelter that could protect them from rain, cold, animal and thefts, particularly as the monsoon season which generally starts in the third week of June was looming. Tarpaulins and tents were would not last a longer period, and it was imminent that proper temporary shelters were urgently required.

In order to provide life-saving shelter support during the 2015 monsoon to the most vulnerable households and to enhance their capacity to engage in community- led recovery, Government of Japan provided support of USD 800,000 to address the immediate needs of the people of 5 of the most affected districts, namely Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur. 1780 HHs were supported with temporary shelters. Socially disadvantaged groups that include poor, women-headed households, single women, people with disabilities, elderly and socially marginalized people like ethnic minorities and dalits (so called untouchable caste) were considered. Especially in urban areas, women were given more priority. The activities of these projects were in close coordination with the Government of Nepal and local communities.

The shelters are temporary and are designed to comfortably last two years. The spacious shelters have CGI sheets for the roof and are airy enough for ventilation. The structure is created with wood while the beneficiaries had the choice to decorate their interiors. Some have used their creativity and imagination to make the interior attractive and partitioned the shelter to their needs. Kitchens in some cases were shifted outside to minimize the problem of smoke and also to make more space inside.

Likewise, in initial months, UN Habitat supported survivors without land or relatives to stay with by funding their rent until they were relocated to new shelters. During the course of project implementation, challenges and unforeseen hindrances were aplenty. Due to Nepal’s deteriorating political situation in the second half of the year and the ensuing fuel crisis affected supply of materials for shelter construction. Planting and harvesting of winter crop meant local labor was in short supply and gathering community members on scheduled dates became difficult to organize. Two of the biggest Hindu festivals Dashain and Tihar fell during the project time due to which members were unable to participate in any kind of activities. Shortage of CGIs due to high demand by earthquake-affected people also led to rescheduling of various project tasks.

More than 9,800 Nepali people of vulnerable and backward communities affected by the 2015 earthquakes have directly benefited from UN- Habitat’s temporary shelter project funded by the Government of Japan. This publication is a snapshot of the project and showcases the aftermath, the process of construction as well as the lives and personal details of people who are living in shelters they now call home.