Nepal: The Race Against Monsoon Season

Publication Date: 
June 09, 2015

In Nepal -- where monsoon season looms large over the destruction and havoc already wreaked by two devastating earthquakes -- Salesian missionaries are transitioning into phase two of their disaster response efforts: medium-term relief.

"We are moving beyond strictly emergency measures, such as distributing food and water," says Father Jijo John, the Salesian missionary in charge of coordinating such efforts in Kathmandu. "This is absolutely necessary because full-scale monsoons are about to hit Nepal. The tarpaulins and plastic sheets that people have been sheltering under will not protect them. We must now focus on relocating families and reconstructing homes."

According to United Nations estimates, the first 7.8 tremor leveled more than 160,000 homes and left more than 500,000 people without shelter. Close to 20,000 people suffered injuries, some of them severe. And the specter of disease presented an additional challenge for an already-frightened population cut off -- by mudslides, by infrastructure collapse and even by the Himalayan mountain range itself -- from most large-scale emergency response efforts.

To help address this crisis, Fr. Jijo and his team -- already living and working in Kathmandu -- initially organized and participated in the collection and distribution of food, clean water, medicines and sturdy plastic sheeting to be used for temporary shelter. And, though their resources were limited, their work was highly successful: more than 100 tons of relief materials reached 30,000 victims in 19 different villages. An additional 60 tons of food and tarps funded and sent by the Salesian Kolkata Province in India were also distributed.

Now, Fr. Jijo’s team has turned their attention to distributing corrugated metal sheeting to families displaced by the disaster.

"They have chosen metal sheeting for two important reasons," says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, which continues to raise critical funds for Fr. Jijo’s work. "In the immediate term, metal will provide much better protection from the damaging winds and driving rain of the monsoons. Beyond that, it will allow families to use that same sheeting as sturdy roofing on the new, permanent homes we will help them to build before winter."

While it is true that Salesian missionaries in Nepal are in a race against time and the elements, they also understand the importance of treating this race as a marathon -- not a sprint.

"As with the earthquake in Haiti, the supertyphoon in the Philippines, and with so many other devastating events around the world -- we integrate long-term planning and sustainable reconstruction into our relief efforts," says Fr. Mark. "To the extent that we can, we want to ensure that disaster victims are better able to weather the next event, with earthquake- or typhoon-proof housing, for instance.

"This means we take a more deliberate approach to building materials," he continues, "choosing and providing those that can be used immediately, and leveraged again later. It also means that whenever and wherever disaster strikes, our Salesian missionaries are in it for the long haul. We don’t vacate a place once immediate needs are met; we live there ourselves! We have a vested interest in seeing these projects through, so that our own communities are stronger and better than before."

It is through the continued, generous support of friends like you that these efforts succeed.

In addition to relief work in new areas outside the earthquake’s epicenter -- missionaries have recently reached the village of Khimiti, where 90 percent of homes have been destroyed and where victims need food, water, cooking oil and shelter -- Fr. Jijo estimates that purchasing just the metal sheeting for roofs will require at least $220,000.

Please consider a gift to our Nepal Emergency Fund. All donations directly support Fr. Jijo’s ongoing immediate and long-term relief work on behalf of the earthquakes’ countless innocent victims.

Our mission provides disaster relief in Nepal and around the world. What’s your mission? Please make our mission, your mission today.

Help now with a gift