Prepared for floods in 2022

By: Johnny Baltzersen 

This is the title of a new relief project, the first of its kind, which CICED together with Just Nepal Foundation has had approved by CISU.

Last year, on this very day, we sent out a newsletter that started like this:

“On the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, torrents of water and tons of mud surged down the Melamchi River in the lower Helambu area. Over a stretch of almost 30 kilometers, the swollen river has taken eight settlements, two major bridges and six suspension bridges with it”.

This is what it looked like in the area where CICED’s efforts together with Just Nepal Foundation work to improve schooling, protect girls from trafficking, strengthen livelihoods, especially for the most marginalized population groups, and support young people in active participation in society.

Whether it will be the same again this year is anyone’s guess. However, the area has been designated as a high-risk zone by the Nepalese authorities. The area is ranked second in Nepal, where floods and mudslides are expected to hit with increased frequency in the coming years. Climate change and man-made erosion contribute to increased risk.

Therefore, strengthening disaster preparedness is high on the agenda in Helambu. Since last summer, Just Nepal Foundation has been working intensively with young volunteers, other organizations and authorities to prepare for relief efforts. And when the opportunities to apply for funding from CISU for a so-called Anticipatory Action effort were ready just over a month ago, CICED together with JNF started assessing how a CISU-funded effort for better preparedness could be implemented.

The focus of the response is on providing security for the most vulnerable populations, including Dalits (the so-called untouchables), who typically live in the most vulnerable stretches of the river and are too poor to finance their own relocation, child-headed families, families with disabled and elderly and frail citizens.

Photos show a few of the houses that won’t survive another round of mudslides and flooding

Child-led families are typically families where the parents have either died or moved away and where children of perhaps 12-14 years old are taking care of several younger siblings. JNF has so far identified at least 15 such families and they need to be relocated to safety. JNF provides adult caregivers who work voluntarily under JNF’s guidance and monitoring.

Special care and provision of medicines for the disabled is also on the checklist, and emergency preparedness efforts will include the procurement and storage of food and medicines in case disaster strikes.

Of course, in a longer perspective, emergency preparedness for the 2022 monsoon is not sufficient. The challenge is very much to create a long-term sustainable emergency response capacity in local communities. Therefore, the project also includes training volunteers in disaster management and handling, and cooperation with local and national disaster authorities is significantly strengthened. Local radio, Facebook and TikTok will be included in the emergency response and rescue teams of young volunteers will be established and trained.

Today’s overview shows that it’s pouring rain everywhere in Nepal. The spring monsoon is in full swing:

but at the time of writing, there are no disaster warnings from Nepal’s metrological authorities that monitor rainfall and river conditions. Hopefully, Just Nepal Foundation and the people in Helambu will have time to strengthen the emergency response before it needs to be activated.

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