The people of Kitine remember the day earthquake as vividly as if it was yesterday. “I was in the fields watering my plants when the earth started trembling… I rushed through the river as the dust was coming up in the air. When I got to what used to be my house – it was all gone, together with all the animals. I had to fight for my own life,” tells us one of the community members. “We were walking with my wife; she was a bit ahead and suddenly got buried by a landslide. We managed to pull her out,” says an elderly man, while more testimonies follow: “I tried to stay beside the door, as we had been taught; suddenly some people take me out and seconds later my house collapsed. Everything around was shaking, there was no way to move.”
The earthquake left the houses of Kitine in rubbles. One person was dead, three injured; the villagers recall that all the livestock was lost too. All the interviewees admit that the earthquake caught them unprepared, as there was no widespread knowledge on how to behave during a sudden onset disaster.
To fill in the gap, in December 2018 Caritas Nepal came to Kitine with a training session on disaster preparedness. A social mobilizer approached the community two days in advance, so that all members were well informed and ready to participate. The trainers described measures that need to be undertaken to prepare for and reduce the effects of disasters, introducing a video and group exercises to further facilitate the learning process. The participants were shown what steps they need to follow to stay safe in case of a fire, an earthquake or a windstorm. “Even though we might still be scared when a disaster happens, we are now prepared,” they say. The most important learning was expressed by the slogan “save yourself first,” representing a fact the people were not aware of before. “We used to have a wrong knowledge,” they admit. “This ‘stay by the door’ thing, for example. We thought we need to do this during an earthquake, while in fact people staying by the door get more affected. Same applies to hiding underneath a table.”
The training also had an impact on the reconstruction efforts in the village, as it provided the people with a handful of tips on earthquake-resistant buildings. Moreover, only the night before the interview, the people of Kitine could test their knowledge in practice, as the area was raided by violent thunderstorms. “I behaved as I heard during the training – switched the lights off and stayed safe inside,” says one of the women. “And all in all, now we feel safer as we are better prepared,” the people express unequivocally.
The training took place within a framework of the Livelihood and WASH Recovery Project, implemented together with Janahit Gramin Sewa Samittee as part of Caritas Nepal’s post-earthquake efforts in the district of Sindhupalchowk.