Department for International Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, The Asia Foundation
In the early weeks after the earthquakes of April and May 2015, The Asia Foundation conducted a study aimed at assessing its impacts on the ground and understanding whether the emergency aid that was flowing in to affected areas was helping people recover.
Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the initial study highlighted just how destructive the earthquakes had been and the immense challenges that would lie ahead. Since then, two further rounds of mixed methods research have been conducted in the same areas, allowing for a tracking of how recovery has been occurring. The second round of research, which involved fieldwork almost a year after the disasters, highlighted new emerging issues. Borrowing had risen massively and the reports discussed the potential for the poor and marginalized to get stuck in a vicious debt trap. Very few at that point had moved from temporary shelters into more sturdy housing. It was clear that the livelihoods of many people, in particular farmers, was recovering very slowly. And tensions were brewing related to a series of contentious damage assessments and perceived mistargeting of aid.
This report presents findings from the third round of research, conducted in September 2016 almost eighteen months after the earthquakes. Because each round of research takes place in the same areas, with the same people interviewed where possible, the series of studies provides insights into how people’s experiences and perceptions are evolving over time.
The third round of research was undertaken as the Government of Nepal’s flagship housing reconstruction program was rolling out. This report, amongst other things, provides new information on how the program is proceeding and the impacts it is having. It also looks, amongst other things, at people’s current shelter conditions, changes to the local economy and people’s livelihoods, the coping strategies people are using and their effectiveness, the make-up of aid in the earthquake-affected zone and changes to social relations and politics.
Among the many interesting findings of the third round of research are the following:
- The shelter situation remains worrying with 71% in the most-affected severely hit districts continuing to live in temporary shelters. While many have moved back into their own house, others have left their house to return to shelters often recognizing that they are unsafe.
- Borrowing continues to be high and looks likely to increase further in the future. Worryingly, it is the poor, the so-called low caste and other marginalized groups who are borrowing repeatedly, at ever increasing volumes, and it is unclear whether they will be able to pay back rising debts.1 Repeated borrowing also does not appear to be associated with recovery of people’s livelihoods or movements from shelter to houses.
- Livelihoods recovery has quickened and most people saw improvements in the three months that preceded the survey.
- There has been a steep drop in the coverage of aid despite many needs remaining on the ground.
- Trauma continues to affect a large share of the population in earthquake-affected areas.
The fourth round of research is scheduled for April 2017.
George Varughese, Ph.D.
Nepal Country Representative The Asia Foundation