In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, getting basic, life-saving supplies to individuals and communities was the first priority. Although the humanitarian situation has improved, providing those affected with shelter, food and livelihoods support, water and sanitation and protection remained paramount. The cold and damp monsoon weather made survivors even more vulnerable.
Oxfam has so far been able to reach over 480,000 people: over 58,000 emergency and improved shelter kits have been distributed; more than 35,000 people have benefited from chlorinated water distribution; almost 5,000 latrines have been constructed, reaching over 116,000 people; and around 17,000 farmers have been helped with accessing rice seeds, to replenish supplies that were destroyed.
Both in the immediate emergency, and the recovery phase, we work in four key areas: shelter, food and livelihoods, gender, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
More than 600,000 houses were totally destroyed, and a further 290,000 were damaged; women, the elderly, people living with disabilities and female headed households are likely to find rebuilding their houses more challenging.
After conducting rapid assessments to establish the needs of the affected communities, Oxfam started providing shelter kits three days after the earthquake. Areas with extensive shelter damage were selected for Oxfam's Improved Shelter Programme, and distribution of improved shelter kits began in early July. Emergency shelter kits comprise tarpaulins and ropes, while improved temporary shelter kits include corrugated galvanized iron sheets and roofing accessories, along with toolkits.
Oxfam partners provided training to carpenters, masons and local women to construct improved temporary shelters. Safe shelter awareness sessions have also been run, to increase knowledge of safe construction techniques among members of the community. On the basis of need and availability of materials, we have also provided cash instead of iron sheets and toolkits in some areas.
The immediate priority was to provide a roof for families before the rainy season, then - with a focus on the approaching winter - to provide items to insulate shelter such as thermal floor mats and groundsheets, blankets, mattresses and hot water bottles, as well as sheeting to help waterproof shelters.
Food and livelihoods
The earthquake affected the livelihoods of around 2.3 million households and 5.6 million workers across the affected districts. Access enough food to live a healthy and active life of many was severely disrupted.
Oxfam has been working on helping people recover their livelihoods, by restarting economic activities for individuals and communities. During the emergency response, distributions of food supplies took place, alongside rice seeds and agricultural tools for farmers whose own supplies were lost or damaged in the earthquake. Cash for work programmes were also run to engage people with debris clearance.
In the recovery phase, there will be an increase of cash-based programmes, seeking to also support non-agriculture-based livelihoods. These programmes will focus on a number of areas: grants to provide capital and training for people who want to restart or rehabilitate existing businesses (which in turn will also help to restart employment opportunities for wage-labourers), the regeneration and maintenance of community infrastructure, and support to market and financial systems as a means of livelihood recovery.
Of the houses damaged by the earthquake, 26 percent belong to female-headed households. Women own only around 19% of housing and land, which puts them at risk of being excluded from the housing reconstruction programmes. In response, Oxfam has been looking at how all areas of our work affect vulnerable women and men, ensuring that they are not put at further risk, and have equal access to facilities and goods.
For women who have been displaced or otherwise affected by the earthquake, we have provided items and amenities specifically aimed at ensuring their security and dignity, such as gender friendly hygiene kits, separate toilets for women, safe bathing spaces, and awareness raising activities to help women get relevant legal documents. In particular, these activities have been aimed at supporting single and elderly women, women with disabilities, pregnant women, and those at risk of domestic or gender based violence.
There is a focus on providing women with targeted support through counselling and referral services, reactivating and strengthening existing women's groups, and empowering women through life skills training and activities to strengthen their ability to provide for themselves and their families.
Water, sanitation and hygiene
Of the 11,288 water supply systems in the 14 most affected districts, 14 percent sustained major damage, and 32 percent were partially damaged. Approximately 220,000 toilets were partially or totally destroyed. This significantly reduced access to suitable sanitation facilities and compromised access to safe, clean water.
In order to reduce the risks of related diseases, and promote better community health, Oxfam has been repairing and rehabilitating water sources and restoring access to potable water in hard-to-reach areas. Latrines have been constructed or repaired, and hygiene kits containing essential items have been distributed. In camps for people forced to leave their homes, we distributed chlorinated water, and more widely radio programmes have been used to disseminate public health messages.
During the emergency response, Oxfam sought to reach the most vulnerable and remote communities. We were able to set up strategic bases in areas that would be inaccessible during the monsoon season, with local teams and contingency stocks in place.
We are now working towards sustainable water and sanitation provision, including water rehabilitation in schools, and major repair and rehabilitation of damaged water supplies in the hill districts. We also plan to achieve sustainable sanitation in alignment with the Government of Nepal's policies for Open Defecation Free (ODF) Nepal, which include semi-permanent latrine construction at the household level, and the safe and hygienic disposal of waste.