Jajarkot EQ Analysis Report : Rescue, Relief and Early Recovery


This report aims to analyze and synthesize the initiative of DPNet Nepal in collaboration with Mercy Corps Nepal and PLAN International Nepal to bring up the situation analysis report series. DPNet mobilized a 7-member multidisciplinary team to Jajarkot and Rukum on November 4 and produced a situation report series. After preparing and disseminating SitRep for 7 consecutive days, the strategy was changed to producing biweekly SitRep until 14 January 2024. This report is prepared mainly based on those SitRep. Other references utilized were various online media reporting, reports produced by other organizations, policy decisions made by the different levels of government, and existing policy provisions to come up with recommendations not only for addressing this disaster but also to contribute to the overall DRRM of Nepal.

The earthquake of 6.4 local magnitude hit mostly the areas of Jajarkot and Rukum West districts on November 3, 2023, at midnight (23:47 hours Nepal Standard Time). Other 11 districts have also had some level of effects. Altogether, 154 people died due to collapsed houses, and 366 were injured. Initial assessment revealed a total of 62,012 private houses, 626 school buildings and 50 government buildings either destroyed or partially damaged and 250,000 people affected. The estimated loss from agriculture, livestock and poultry is around NPR 42.9 million and 480 MT of wheat and mustard lost at the field. The initial estimate for reconstruction needs prepared by NDRRMA is NPR 69 billion. Local communities, security forces, medical institutions and government authorities had swift search and rescue operations. Despite the geographical constraints of road access, scattered settlements and houses, midnight time, the local people, LGs elected leaders and local-level security and medical personnel performed a commendable job and mostly completed the search and rescue operation within 24 hours.

Government authorities have announced several relief policies. As in previous disasters, relief assistance has been provided from every corner of society both at individual and organizational levels. Relief distribution concluded with some challenges due to gaps in demand and supply, transportation difficulties in interior rural areas, and some confusion or inefficiency created by the one-door relief distribution policy. In some areas a cash voucher system was practiced, but not on a large scale. As the market was functioning fairly, a cash system would have been effective in addressing the distribution challenge such as appropriateness of relief materials, quality of relief materials distributed and efficiency. The insurance premium for disaster risk administered by the Karnali Provincial Government has also been underpayment from the insurance company. The government emergency relief amount, the amount provided to the family of deceased members, and the cash grant for temporary shelter construction are expected not only to facilitate acquiring the needy materials by the affected households but also to contribute to revitalizing the local economy.

In parallel with the relief operation, policy provisions were made in time and temporary shelter construction was initiated by government authorities, local people themselves, and volunteers mobilized by the political parties. Despite those timely decisions and volunteerism, the temporary shelter construction was delayed against the initial plan. Addressing the early needs related to the WASH sector, equipping the local health institution, establishing temporary learning centers, conducting psychological counseling, working for winterization packages, and addressing the special needs of most vulnerable people such as pregnant women, lactating mothers, children, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and people with chronic diseases were the most critical need and were also addressed, but with several challenges. Particularly, the winterization support combined with the delay in temporary shelter construction took lives of over 32 vulnerable people. 

Initial planning has been ongoing for the reconstruction at the federal level. Initial estimates floated by the NDRRMA show a need of NPR 69 billion for the reconstruction of private houses, public buildings, and physical infrastructures. The development partners have shown readiness to support the reconstruction in a meeting organized by the ministry of finance. The Karnali Provincial Government has unveiled an agriculture and livestock based comprehensive livelihood restoration program. All these good initiatives need detailing, and implementation duly incorporating the learning from 2015 Gorkha Earthquake reconstruction process. The federal government has started a feasibility study to make all the buildings insured for risk sharing, which is although a belated action after facing the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, is still a needed initiative for long-run DRR measures. Preparation and implementation of functional preparedness plan throughout the country, enforcement of the National Building Code, inclusion of DRM courses in school education, and massive awareness campaign with simple but heart-touching messages to all the people are the important tasks to be planned and implemented without any delay. Who knows when another area will be hit by the earthquake? It is well said that earthquakes does not kill people, but our poorly constructed houses and other physical infrastructures kill us.

Some of the recommendations that need to be taken into account, which can be useful for future disaster management efforts, are as follows: Firstly, a unified, legally binding form should be implemented to comprehensively track disaster relief activities. This form would detail participants in relief efforts, their actions, and the where, when, and why of these actions, enhancing coordination, transparency, and accountability. The government's one door policy, particularly in cash distribution, needs more clarity with detailed guidelines for effective implementation. This policy should have a hierarchical structure, scaling from district to provincial and federal levels, depending on the disaster's reach. To ensure equitable assistance distribution, humanitarian partners should be encouraged to expand relief efforts beyond their usual areas, and the government should allow Social Security Allowance accounts to receive grants. Additionally, continuity in assistance distribution must be maintained despite administrative changes and struggles within DAO and LGs should be addressed by higher authorities to promote collaboration.

Further recommendations include the need for a robust system to foster coordination among humanitarian agencies, preventing duplicated efforts. The approach to assistance distribution should be reviewed, considering varying levels of vulnerability, and ensuring that remote areas are not neglected. Establishing warehouses in each district, especially in mountainous and hilly regions, would significantly improve disaster response capabilities. The Disaster Assessment Guideline should be updated to include MIRA and CSDA for a more effective evaluation of disaster impacts. It is also crucial to ensure the accuracy of local level data and hold elected representatives accountable for presenting inflated beneficiary figures. Addressing geological risks in rebuilding efforts, including land fissures due to earthquakes, is essential. Furthermore, the impact of disasters on livelihoods should be comprehensively assessed, and special care must be provided to vulnerable groups, such as pregnant, lactating women, PWD, injured individuals with dependent children. Ensuring compliance with minimum humanitarian standards in relief support and providing psychosocial support to orphaned children and bereaved parents are also vital. Lastly, advocating for disaster-resilient construction practices and monitoring the inflation of local materials and labor costs, along with providing technical training to local masons, are critical steps to build a more disaster-resilient future.


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