See why cash is key to helping Nepalis rebuild


October 21, 2015

Share this story:
  • linkedin
  • All photos: Tom van Cakenberghe for Mercy Corps

It's been six months since a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 people and rupturing the lives of nearly 8 million.

Today, thanks to our supporters and partners, communities are slowly beginning to recover.

In the past six months, we’ve reached more than 135,000 people with emergency supplies, cash, food support, safe water and temporary shelter.

The earthquake devastated local economies and brought down electricity lines, leaving families with little money and no electricity.

But cash assistance — distributed to 23,000 families — is helping people get the supplies they need to rebuild. And solar lamps, included in many of our emergency kits and equipped with mobile charging ports, are helping families communicate with each other.

In the coming months and years, we will continue to help vulnerable families access financial services like recovery loans, and we will engage communities in emergency planning to better prepare them for future disasters.

Below, meet a few of the earthquake survivors you’ve helped us reach and find out what support they’re most grateful to have.


Her story: Jyanu, 32, owns a small restaurant in her village. She and her husband work there to support their three children. Jyanu and her family used to live in the same building as the restaurant and grow vegetables outside, but April’s earthquake damaged the living quarters, so they had to build a temporary shelter nearby.

“Before the earthquake, everything was in order,” Jyanu says. “The restaurant was good, the farm was good. After, everything was messed up. I was afraid of losing our [temporary] shelter because of the winds and the aftershocks. But now the aftershocks have stopped.”

Mercy Corps distributed emergency kits in the village — Jyanu and her family received cooking supplies, sleeping mats, blankets, a solar light, and cash to help them rebuild.

What she’s most grateful for: The solar light that Jyanu received is helping her whole family, including her three children, who study by its light each night. “The solar light is best,” she says. “Even before the earthquake, we had problems with electricity. The light is dim at night. We use the solar light all evening until bed.”

Jyanu is preparing for a brighter future, too. She saved a portion of the cash assistance for each of her three children.


Her story: Kumari was six-months pregnant with her baby Santosh when the earthquake struck her village. Her older child Ridham, 7, was injured in the earthquake. Kumari and her husband’s home was destroyed, and they had to sell their valuable oxen to pay for Ridham’s medical bills.

Kumari’s husband works as a plumber and makes about 600 rupees each day, but they estimate it will take 80,000 rupees to build a new home. For now, they are living in a temporary shelter until they can rebuild.

What she’s most grateful for: Kumari and her family received an emergency supply kit and 7,500 rupees in unconditional cash to use for whatever they needed most. Because their home was destroyed, they used the money to buy corrugated metal to help construct their temporary shelter.

Kumari also appreciates the solar light that came in her kit — it gives her the light she needs to cook healthy food for her family.


Her story: Muya moved to this area when she married her husband 30 years ago. They’ve lived in their home for 20 of those years, raising their five children ages 15-28.
“When the earthquake happened, I was running and crying. I fell down and started to cry,” she remembers, standing on the same ledge where she stood at the time. She was only steps away from falling down the hill with the crumbling rock.

Muya and her family are living in a temporary shelter now, but it’s not as close to home as she’d like — she’s anxious to rebuild the family home. “When I was first married and came here I didn’t know anyone and I was sad. But then I fell in love with this place. Now I know everyone, I don’t want to leave.”

What she’s most grateful for: “I couldn’t bring anything from the [damaged] house so I could use everything,” she says when asked about the emergency kit her family received. “Clothes, kitchen stuff, the solar lamp. We use it for cooking and for going to the toilet at night.”

Muya and her husband used cash assistance to help build the temporary shelter they now live in with their children.


Her story: Before the earthquake, Basanta and her husband lived in a secluded home up in the hills with their young daughter Yasna. Basanta was outside taking care of their cattle when the earthquake hit — tiny Yasna slept inside on the ground floor.

Their home was destroyed, but fortunately Yasna survived. “I was lucky my daughter wasn’t upstairs where she usually sleeps,” Basanta says. “I wouldn’t have been able to get to her before the house collapsed.”

Now, Basanta and her young family have moved in with her mother-in-law. Their home is cracked, but livable, and Basanta has a small garden to grow food. But the village’s water source was damaged by the earthquake. “Before the tap was repaired, we walked 35 minutes to fetch water, two or three times a day.”

What she’s most grateful for: For Basanta and her family, clean water is the most important thing they could ask for. Mercy Corps repaired the village’s water tap, and now the family is happier. “I go to the water tap about 15 times a day, to get water for the livestock, to wash clothes, carry water to the house and garden,” Basanta says.

Cash helped Basanta’s mother-in-law repair the family home, and they use the utensils from the emergency kit to eat meals together.

Buri Maya

Her story: Buri Maya’s home was completely destroyed during April’s devastating earthquake. She’s been married for 37 years and is a mother to five boys. Three of her sons are married, and all of the children lived together with Buri Maya and her husband before the earthquake hit.

Rebuilding will be a struggle for Buri Maya and her family — they face the challenge of removing large amounts of debris from the area before they can build a new home.

What she’s most grateful for: “Everything is perfect, but I liked the solar lantern best,” she says of the emergency kit she received. “It has helped a lot for cooking, and lot of household things. My son uses it to do his homework.”

Buri Maya and her husband were able to build a temporary shelter with the cash they received, as well as enough rice to feed the family for a month after the disaster.


Her story: Sharmila and her husband live in a village near Sharmila’s parents. After the earthquake, they came back to care for Sharmila’s ailing parents, and have been with them ever since.

“When I came to home to see my parents after the earthquake, the village looked like a refugee camp,” Sharmila says. “Even though the houses are still standing people can’t live there.“ The houses are too damaged to be safe anymore. “My husband and I, we’ll be ok, but I’m worried about my parents,” she says.

The earthquake had another unfortunate effect on the area — as the earth shifted and rock crumbled, previously running water sources dried up. After the earthquake, families were struggling to recover and had no source of clean water nearby. “One day I was feeling so thirsty but I didn’t have the energy to fetch water.”

What she’s most grateful for: “Water is the most important thing,” Sharmila says. Mercy Corps partnered with the village to install a new water tap to bring fresh water to families like Sharmila’s.

Sharmila was grateful for the emergency kit that her family received, and especially likes the solar lamp. ”When we wake up, we put it in the sun,” she says. “It’s like a ritual.”