By Avinashi Paudel and Naresh Newar
Solukhumbu- Five-year-old Ang Dolker lives in Thame, a village in the hinterlands of Everest region, with her mother Daati Sherpa. Her father was crushed to death by a falling rock on a cliff while herding yak when Daati was seven months pregnant with her.
The earthquake that struck on 25 April not only destroyed their mud and mortar house but also forced them to flee their village due to the fear of aftershocks and glacial lake outburst. Having lost everything, the real struggle began when they came back and resettled in their original home village after several weeks.
As they are one of the poorest families in the village, they received help from many villagers including extended families to rebuild their lives. However, it was not that easy to recuperate life from disaster at 3850 meter above sea level.
“Everything is very expensive here” says Daati, as goods have to be either airlifted or carried by beasts like mules and yaks.
Being a single mother, Daati has to work doubly hard to rise from the loss after the earthquake. She works as a daily labourer and at the same time has to look after her daughter, who follows her everywhere.
This September, Ang Dolker was enrolled at Thame School but Daati is worried whether or not Ang Dolker will get along at school.
“She is very shy and used to spending all her time with me. I don’t know if she will get along with her classmates,” she says. “May be if she got new school supplies, she will be excited to go to school.”
UNICEF brought the answer to Daati’s worries. Sherpa, who has been receiving cash grant of NRs. 2000 (approximately $ 20) every four months as per the government’s social welfare scheme, received a top-up cash grant of NRs. 3000 (approximately $30) provided by UNICEF.
“I will buy a school bag, stationeries, milk, sugar and clothes for my daughter” says Sherpa as she receives the cash from the secretary of Namche Village Development Committee (VDC) Binod Basnet
The emergency cash grant is being distributed to an estimated 400,000 vulnerable people in 19 districts – 14 most affected and an additional five identified by the Government’s Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). Solukhumbu is one of the additional five.
Earthquake pangs in the Everest region
Basnet had taken a long journey on foot to reach this mountain village to deliver the cash at Daati’s doorstep.
“It feels good to help a single mother like Daati and this is indeed a special mission for me to be able to reach the top-up cash to every vulnerable individual like her,” says Basnet. He also explained how in the current situation the top-up cash makes such a huge difference in the district because not everyone in the Everest region is well off as many would imagine.
“This year a lot of people, even in a tourist area like the Everest region, have suffered from the earthquake and a series of aftershocks over the past six months and for them, every rupee is precious,” says Basnet.
A trip to the Everest, or Khumbu region, is popularly called a ‘royal trek. ’ Home to the world’s highest and most famous mountain, Mt. Everest, it is one of the most visited mountain trekking areas, and in Autumn, especially, the trekking routes in the area are usually jammed with tourists. But this year, despite being a peak trekking season, the routes are almost devoid of trekkers. It is in this unusual quietness in the villages of Everest region that the local Sherpa community is struggling to rebuild their earthquake damaged homes. These are among the 9000 homes in Solukhumbu District that were completely destroyed by the earthquakes of 25 April and 12 May, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
It’s not an easy journey for Basnet and his team of government officials responsible for distributing the cash. The weather is cold and the roads have become tougher to walk due to the destruction of several routes. Walking on the bridges suspended high over rushing white mountain rivers especially makes them nervous. Fear of aftershocks still lingers.
The sight of a range of highest mountains including the Mt. Everest gives them a welcome relief. However, Basnet’s concern is neither the arduous trek nor the dangerous trail. His worry is how to reach as many individuals as possible.
“Too many people have suffered and we hope that the cash we deliver will make some difference in their lives,” says Basnet.
He is happy to see that the cash he delivered will enable Daati to provide an education to her daughter.