Nepal Earthquakes: Six months on

23 Oct 2015   |   Blog   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  Catholic Social Teaching   |   3 comments

Father Pius in Nepal

The people know well that we are co-pilgrims along their life journey. We were told in many places and instances by the people, “We know Caritas will not abandon us."
Father Pius Peruma,
Caritas Nepal

As we mark six months since the two devastating earthquakes that struck Nepal in April, Caritas organisations reflect on the strength of the Nepalese people and our emergency response that has been grounded in Catholic Social Teaching.

Earlier this month, Caritas Australia, along with the wider Caritas network, gathered at the Faith Based Organisations meeting at the UN in Geneva. Father Pius Peruma, director of our partner Caritas Nepal, gave a speech sharing his reflections from the ground and highlighting the significance of the Caritas approach.

We share excerpts from this speech below, so you can hear about the journey of recovery directly from our partner in Nepal.

Your Excellencies, Sisters and Brothers,

I come from Caritas Nepal with a very warm Namaste! I suppose you all know Nepal is a country in the Himalayan region of Asia. For the past twenty years we went through a very hard time.

We are a land locked country and we feel that all the more in these days. At the moment we are facing unprecedented fuel and other shortages due to the transit and trade disruption from the south side of the country. It is likely to hamper our rehabilitation and recovery efforts.

Caritas has been working in Nepal for the past 26 years and my reflections are based on our experiences for the past 5 or 6 months after the recent earth quakes. Nepal was hit by two major earth quakes of the magnitude of 7.9 and 7.3 on 25 April and 12 May 2015. We, Caritas Nepal were not prepared for a disaster like this. About 9,000 people lost their lives and many more were injured. Over 800,000 houses were fully or partially destroyed. This is apart from the damages caused to the infrastructures, schools, government and community buildings. In all nearly 1/3 of the total population or 8 million people were affected by these massive earthquakes.

At a recent gathering at the district government office in Lalitpur, Kathmandu to honour those agencies that were actively involved in the relief and rescue operations, it was revealed that nearly 70% of the emergency relief work was carried out by the faith based organisation's though the share of the financial resources to them was a much smaller percentage. Caritas Nepal was able to assist more than 70,000 households, i.e., more than 350,000 individuals. Generally speaking in Nepal faith based organisations are said to be more cost effective.

Our experience shows that faith based organisations like Caritas Nepal is in a better position to intervene in emergencies. One of the clear advantages is the scale and breadth of the Caritas network. And due to the presence of the Catholic Church at community level and the institutional presence of the Church globally Caritas Nepal was able to respond effectively to the needs of the people.
Caritas Nepal was trusted, welcomed and accepted by the people – because of their prior experiences – and the governments at local and national level; we were called in for assistance in many localities, clearly demonstrating the trust they place on agencies like Caritas Nepal.

Catholic Social Doctrine or Teachings are the foundation of all our humanitarian interventions and responses. Thus the community already know, the how and why of what we do. For a traumatised community it is much easier and comfortable to communicate with Caritas than to answer the question of strangers those who come for need assessment.

From our ongoing programmes and existing relationship, the communities know very well that our engagement is based on human dignity, solidarity, subsidiarity and stewardship of resources."
Father Pius Peruma,
Caritas Nepal

Our accompaniment model is based on mutual trust, solidarity and subsidiarity. Caritas Nepal was able to mobilise quick support from CI and other Caritas members – particularly Caritas Australia and others based on solidarity. We were able to share similarly with communities around based on mutual trust and understanding. The management structure based on subsidiarity made decision making participatory and rather easy and the responses became more appropriate and effective at the local level.

Caritas Australia’s communication team made communication and fund mobilisation easy – taking the pressure off the local Caritas – enabling it to concentrate more on delivering the aid on time.

A major challenge for organisations that do not have sufficient and proper local knowledge and political and cultural sensitivities engaging directly is a serious concern in an already sensitive country like Nepal. Any one wrong move from one can jeopardise the activities of the others.

Thank you very much!
Fr. J. Pius Perumana
08 October 2015, Geneva

The response from Caritas Australia supporters to the Nepal appeal has been abundantly generous. We were able to provide over $4 million of assistance for immediate aid and ongoing recovery efforts.

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  • Caroline Storm

    “Thank you for letting us know we were of help in that disastrous situation”

  • Peter Brown

    “It is good to hear stories like this. Very encouraging to us as supporters! ”

  • Maria

    “I visited Caritas Nepal in Kathmandu last month; interesting to note that my taxi driver had no idea where to go when given the address and could not read a map. All the well dressed people he asked for directions had no clue either. In the end it was a beggar who knew exactly where it was and showed us the way - says it all really. Well done, keep up the good work. ”