Krishna Prasad Sapkota has spent most of his 72 years carrying heavy jugs of milk up and down the foothills of the Himalayas to carve out a living for his family. He was putting the finishing touches to a new home that he built by hand when the earthquake struck, reducing everything he and his wife worked so long to create into a pile of mud, sticks, and stone.
“[The] house collapsed before our eyes,” says Krishna. “Everything is buried — we do not even have utensils to cook food. All of our clothes are buried in the rubble.”
Krishna and his family live in Kukhuratar, a village perched on a hillside roughly two hours east of Nepal’s earthquake-battered capital, Kathmandu. They are among tens of thousands of families who lost their homes and belongings in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake — the worst the country has seen in 80 years. Today, millions of people are in need of assistance, including food, shelter, and clean water.
The most affected people are undoubtedly among Nepal’s poorest people, who lived in mud and stone homes — like Krishna’s — that were torn apart by the earthquake. Many are hours from a main road and some have been entirely cut off from landslides triggered by the earthquake. Kukhuratar is reachable by a dirt road, but the road is steep and narrow, making it hard for cars to pass.
Just up the hill from Krishna, Roshan Sapkota, 32, is building a temporary shelter made of corrugated metal, timber, and tarpaulin. Roshan and his extended family lived in three homes standing side-by-side. The earthquake demolished all of them.
The six adults and four children in Roshan’s family are now sleeping in an empty chicken shed alongside other displaced families. All of their livestock were killed and the reserves from their last harvest lost.
“For now, there is almost no food,” says Roshan. “There is a scarcity of shelter and blankets. We are barely managing these things. We have small kids and we are also facing difficulty in feeding [them].”
Roshan has two children, ages eight and 10, while his brother has two. When asked about the future, Roshan’s sister-in-law, Sabiana, struggles to speak as she holds back tears. “Up here we cannot build such a house now. I feel that now we [will] not be able to stand up and [give] a better future to our children. We are not even in the state to give them a better education.”
Concern Worldwide has partnered with a local organization, Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN), to get shelter and basic relief supplies, like blankets, water purification tablets, and personal hygiene items, out to 16,000 families in four badly hit districts. However, heavy air traffic and freezes on large aircrafts into Kathmandu have created a bottleneck for relief flights, while poor road networks, landslides, and damaged infrastructure continue to make it difficult to reach people most in need.
“Thousands of people are sleeping outside and are yet to receive any assistance,” says Ros O’Sullivan, Concern Worldwide’s Emergency Response Team leader on the ground. “We cannot let these obstacles prevent us from reaching them.”
For people like Krishna, relief cannot arrive quickly enough. The monsoon, which usually settles over Nepal in June, will make it extremely difficult for families in rural areas to rebuild their homes. In addition to immediate relief supplies, many will likely need continued support to recover after having lost everything.
“Everything is destroyed,” Krishna says, tears streaming down his weathered cheeks. “I am not sure what we will do now.”