Dalit community faces severe struggle after Earthquake

15-year old Sapna lost four cousins in the earthquake and the family’s house was completely destroyed. The family now lives in a tent in the schoolyard with no source of income.

In Sindhupalchowk District where Mission East and Medair are distributing shelter and hygiene items, 90 percent of the population lost their houses, which are either completely collapsed or so damaged that they are no longer safe to live in. One of the families whose house was completely destroyed in the Earthquake was a Dalit family, Mission East staff met during distributions. The Dalit people are among the most poor and marginalized people in Nepal, and after the earthquake they live in an even more precarious situation than before.  

Could not save the children

Sapna is a 15-year-old girl belonging to that family. The day of the earthquake, she was in her home on the lower level of the two-storey house, resting with other members of her family. “Four of my cousins were in the upper level of the house when the ground started shaking.” Two girls aged nine and 13 and two boys aged six and 13 were upstairs. “Despite our efforts, we could not save them,” says the mother of the two boys. The house collapsed so fast, only those on the bottom level were able to run out.

When we met them, the Dalit family was sleeping partly outside and partly in a tent too small for all of them. “We were not able to get any of our mattresses, blankets, and clothes from under the rubble,” said one family member. They were cold and hungry. Traditionally, the Dalit community, the poorest in Nepal, is landless, therefore they are not able to cultivate and store stocks of grains and rice like other families living in Sindhupalchowk.

Lost their livelihood

The sole livelihood of this family was the tailor shop they had in their home. They earned enough with their two sewing machines to buy adequate food for the 20 people sharing the four houses on the compound. “Our two machines are gone. They are broken and buried under the rubble. We tried to dig them out but couldn’t. Now we don’t have food or money,” said a family member. “What we need most is shelter from the cold and the rain. We need tarpaulin and tents so we can sleep. And we also need food.”

Sapna has other needs as well: “I’m very sad because I won’t be able to go back to school. I lost all of my books and my supplies in the earthquake.”

The family received tarps, ropes, jerry cans, buckets, soap, and water purifier from Mission East and Medair, to help them until they can rebuild their houses.