Nepal: Nepal Earthquake

RMF Emergency Relief Activities Overview: Part II, Needs Assessment

May 19, 2015

Cindy Stein, Director, Global Programs

RMF assisted with needs assessments in several communities during the distribution phase in order to accurately provide ongoing emergency and long-term support and development in rural communities. This was done in:

  • Sakhu
  • Chagam
  • Kavre region, Philomatar VDC, Ward 3

Sakhu is a small town not far from Kathmandu towards Kavre that was almost entirely destroyed. Most of the villagers are living in communal tent areas with limited access to clean water. Medical tents were set up and patients were being housed in the remains of a local school that had portions that were new construction still standing and undamaged. Seeing this village was particularly heart wrenching because people were standing around watching the search and recovery teams at work looking for bodies when the RMF team arrived soon after the earthquake. Everyone was universally still in shock and had no idea what they were going to do before monsoon since almost every home was demolished.

A search and recovery team.

Chagam is home to almost 300 nuns and an adjacent Sherpa village that is so remote that the people there have no road access during the 4-month monsoon every year. Typically, they purchase enough food stores (which they need outside of what they farm) and supplies to last the monsoon season. However, the earthquake left them without the road access to do this in time, almost every home demolished, and no means to store harvested food in a dry and secure place. With all homes, schools, and crops ruined, Chagam’s nuns and villagers were in desperate need of aid as well as a plan for long-term reconstruction and resilience. RMF and Global Karuna arranged a supply drop via helicopter and needs assessment. Now that we know the needs, the next steps are:

  1. Procured food and other important needs to serve them for the 4 month monsoon period and bring them by land once the roads have been cleared following the May 12 earthquake and subsequent landslides. We have been working with the army to prioritize the opening of this road.
  2. We have successfully negotiated a fair price on corrugated tin roofing, bolts, and metal piping to build a communal structure for all of the nuns (as they specified they preferred), as well as supply some building materials to the Sherpa community. In return, the Sherpa community will build a dwelling for the nuns with the supplies.
  3. We will bring an engineer on site via helicopter to consult with the village community leader on proper construction of the transient nun housing.
  4. During the monsoon period, a team of experts will come together and plan for a long-term solution to build a new nunnery, village homes, create a sustainable community, address water, sanitation, healthcare and education with attention to incorporate transient housing materials into long-term structures.

Monks from Global Karuna getting ready to bring first batch of supplies and perform RMF designed needs assessment led by The Venerable Metteyya Saputtya.

Villagers and nuns who had not received aid since the earthquake meet Venerable Metteyya Sakuputtya and the other monks to welcome and thank them.

A makeshift shelter from found materials after all the homes were destroyed

Absolute destruction in Chagam

Seeing Metteyya when he returned from Chagam was heartbreaking. He had previously been so entrenched in procuring supplies and organizing missions and fielding calls for needs that he had not been out personally to see the destruction that the earthquake had caused until he flew to Chagam, Seeing one of the most compassionate people feel the suffering so deeply was absolutely devastating.

The relief and needs assessment operation in Kavre was very involved. This is a community that is one of the most remote in Nepal, only accessible by many hours of travel with a 4×4 vehicle on poor dirt roads followed by many hours of expert level hiking and trekking through rocky terrain at high altitude. The Tamang people who inhabit this hilly region have had little or no exposure to outsiders and live as subsistence farmers in homes made of rock and mud. The valley of 30,000 people has lost every one of its schools due to the earthquake, 9 of the 10 health facilities, and the vast majority of homes. They also experienced the loss of many animals which they rely on for food and labor. Having previously experienced poor health indicators and poor educational and economic access, the earthquakes only compounded that. For example, 100% of women deliver without access to an operating theater, and 99% without a skilled birth attendant which the WHO has shown to be the #1 means to prevent maternal death. There is virtually no access to contraception, no school supplies, rampant diarrheal disease in children under 5, and no means to transport goods to a marketplace in order to earn a living. RMF brought some of the only aid to the region while also completing community meetings with:

  1. Farmers
  2. Women’s groups
  3. Teachers
  4. Community leaders

During these meetings, RMF gathered information about community priorities, skills, special circumstances, ideas, and potential solutions with the community members in order to now formulate a plan for the long-term support, rebuild, and eventual self-sustainability of communities there.

RMF team, community leader, and local partners figuring out the logistics of delivering and distributing goods to the remote community of ward 3, in Philomatar VDC, Kavre.

RMF truck loaded with supplies

An example of the best/most developed portion of road on the way there

The road to get there was extremely dusty.

The landscape was stunning but increasingly more demolished as we climbed further into the hilly regions.

When we reached the end of where vehicles can pass, the villagers met us and we began distribution based on carefully crafted lists of households compiled by community leaders. Goods were given out so that all households were covered and then we started to walk towards the village with the goods together.

Men, women and children were all adept at maneuvering across rugged terrain with supplies balanced using their forehead.

The walk was definitely not for the faint of heart. With 2000 foot death defying drops, landslides, streams full of leaches, treacherous rock climbing areas, and serious mountainside erosion to navigate for several hours, it was easy to appreciate the absolute toughness of the Tamang people.

Yes, this is part of the route you have to take both up and back!

We reached the edge of the small village just before dark and build a makeshift sleeping area for one of the families. They graciously allowed us to camp there for the night. Here the RMF team uses an axe to chop bamboo into strips for the shelter.

We used a tarp for roofing

Dug a water drainage trench

Dry millet was used to cover the floor area so the ground was soft enough to sleep on.

And a fire was built to keep everyone warm, dry, and to cook rice for dinner.

In the morning we walked another 30 minutes to assess the damage in the village. Every one of the 50 households was destroyed. Since they had not received any aid until we arrived, most were still living in half-demolished homes. Animals were under the precious few tarps they had. Crops were going bad as they traditionally store maize to dry in the second story of their homes, which were mostly destroyed or wet from rain.

The people and animals were welcoming. We made a lot of new friends and RMF looks forward to co-creating a new and resilient community with the people.

We held the community meetings in the area in front of where the school used to be before the earthquake. It now sat in shambles with only the roof and doorways remaining.

The community meetings allowed everyone an equal chance to voice their opinions. There was a private meeting afterwards of women only.

Then we started on our long journey back to Kathmandu to start planning long-term development programs for this region. The landscape was nothing short of inspiring.



More than 8,500 people are dead and over 15,000 injured following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit the Himalayan region the morning of April 25, 2015. Eight million people are affected across Nepal, and one million children are in urgent need of help.

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