Cash stimulates recovery in villages shattered by quake


June 23, 2015

Share this story:
  • linkedin
  • People from Ghortali, a village in the hard-hit Sindhupalchowk district of Nepal, gather at a nearby market to collect cash distributions from Mercy Corps. The money will help them buy the items they desperately need to recover. Photo: V. Krishnan/Mercy Corps

“This is what most people are buying right now,” says Projan, a hardware store owner in rural Nepal. He motions to two women who have come to buy nails, hammers and door hinges.

“They don’t have the money to buy materials to repair their broken homes, so they are trying to fix their homes with whatever they can salvage from the rubble.”

As Projan talks, the women make their purchases with old, crumpled notes of 100 Nepalese rupees (about $1 USD) that they’ve pulled from the folds of their sarees.

Many communities in the Sindhupalchowk district were almost completely destroyed in the quake. Photo: V. Krishnan/Mercy Corps

Projan sells his wares at the Sunkoshi market in the Sindhupalchowk district of Nepal, where Mercy Corps is distributing cash to help families rebuild after the April 25 earthquake.

Sindhupalchowk is one of the regions that was hit hardest by the quake. Damage in these areas is massive — homes destroyed, livelihoods lost, economies stalled and entire villages leveled.

In order for communities in regions like these to recover, people need to be able to purchase the items they need to build back their lives. But most local bank branches are still shut down, and families in many remote areas don’t have access to one at all.

That’s why we're working with local shopkeepers like Projan to help us get money to those who need it most.

Through our new cash distribution program, families pick up their cash allotments directly from shops in their community. Once they receive the funds from the shopkeeper, they can spend it in the store, go to another market or even save it for the future.

Families receive their cash distributions directly from local shopkeepers. This interaction quickly gets cash to the families that need it most and helps encourage spending that will boost the economy. Photo: R. Shrestha/Mercy Corps

This unconditional cash assistance allows distressed families to purchase the items that are most important to them — seeds and agricultural tools, food, school fees, building materials — while giving local economies the boost they need for long-term recovery.

Kamal, 40, lives in Ghortali, a mountainous village near the Sunkoshi market, with her children and elderly parents. Her husband left to find work to support them.

“Our field has a huge crack in the middle from the earthquake,” she explains. “Our maize is ready for harvest but we will not know if we will get the same harvest as last year.”

As a subsistence farmer, Kamal relies on her land for food and income, and restoring this livelihood is essential to her long-term recovery.

Kamal (right) sits with others from her community after receiving her cash distribution. Women from her village travel to the markets together so they can help one another transport supplies back to their homes in mountains locations. Photo: V. Krishnan/Mercy Corps

With the money she recently received from Mercy Corps, Kamal can now buy the things her family needs most to put their lives back together and move forward.

And the program helps shop owners like Projan get back on their feet, too.

We pay them a small handling fee for each distribution they complete, which is guaranteed income for their efforts. Plus, bringing people into their stores encourages spending that will help them — and their community — recover more quickly.

“I will go to the market today to buy some cooking oil and chilies,” Kamal told us after she received her family’s cash assistance. “The price for both have gone up from before the earthquake, but we have run out of these at home.”

Each day, Kamal, Projan and thousands of others are taking small steps — like buying chilies — forward on the road to recovery. And Mercy Corps is committed to giving them the support they need to do so. Because each new step — a restocked pantry, a repaired front door, a replanted field — is a step toward a new normal and, in time, a happy, thriving future.

How you can help

  • Donate to our Humanitarian Response Fund: Your gift will help people in Nepal recover and support our emergency efforts to crises in Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine and around the world. Give now ▸
  • Fundraise for survivors: Our team is able to quickly respond to natural disasters because of supporters like you — and the more people who come together to help, the more people we can reach. Spread the word to your family and friends: Start a fundraising page for Nepal ▸