CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Nepal resilient a year after earthquake

Kathmandu (SE): A delegation from Caritas Internationalis visited Nepal at the end of April to take part in a symposium in Kathmandu and to mark the anniversary of the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck on 25 April 2015, leaving millions homeless, bringing aid and engendering a spirit of solidarity.

“I am really amazed by the resilience of the earthquake affected people in Nepal,” Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, from Niigata, Japan, told the Catholic News Agency on May 2. Bishop Kikuchi participated in the delegation as.

The head of Caritas Asia said, “People have not lost their hope for future” though “one year after the disaster, people are still living in shelters, unable to reconstruct their houses.”

The bishop said, “Though they have been facing terrible difficulties and a delay of official assistance, they are confident of rebuilding their life in due time.”

Bishop Kikuchi and together with other delegates visited earthquake-hit areas outside Kathmandu, going to villages in the Himalayas often accessible only by dirt roads and where the path to recovery will be a long one.

One of the worst-affected areas, Balthali, which is more than 40 kilometres 25 southeast of Kathmandu, nearly 190 homes were destroyed.

Nepalis carry on with their lives despite continuing to live in makeshift shelters made of tarpulin or sheets of tin. Few of the estimated 800,000 buildings destroyed by the earthquakes have been rebuilt and the Red Cross believes some four million people continue to live in substandard, temporary shelters.

The government of Nepal has given out some payments to victims for hardship, but most of the US$2,000 ($15,518) pledged for each family to rebuild a home have not been disbursed. The slow government response in releasing grants, the delay of official assistance and bureaucratic hurdles are frustrating locals as well as international aid workers.

Bishop Kikuchi, whose own country was recently struck by earthquakes, said, “Based on our experience of disaster in Japan and also my own encounters with so many victims of natural disaster in different countries, I know it takes quite long time for victims to recover normal life as before the disaster, both in rich, developed countries and in poor, underdeveloped countries.”

He continued, “Materially speaking, people in rich countries such as Japan have an advantage in receiving relief goods without much delay, and in abundance.” 

The bishop said, “However, that does not mean victims in rich countries have an advantage in psychological compensation, because in many cases in rich countries, human relationship in local communities have been lost in individualism.”

Ananda Pokharel, Nepal’s minister for culture and tourism, told participants at the Caritas symposium that the government appreciates the Catholic Church’s aid in relief efforts.

Bishop Kikuchi explained that the Church is adept at providing disaster assistance because it is “there with the people even before disaster happens, as well as during the disaster and after the disaster.”

During the conference the bishops and Caritas members also prayed in solidarity with the victims who lost their lives, and encouraged the Nepali people to look to the future with optimism and hope.

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