Ever since its establishment in 1989, JILAF has been implementing various projects in Nepal, together with the Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC), one of the country's national centers, with the aim of assisting the social and economic development of Nepal through the building of a free and democratic labour movement.
On April 25, 2015, at 11:56 in the morning, a large earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck, causing serious damage throughout Nepal. The epicenter of the earthquake was 15 km below the Gorkha district in central Nepal.
From July 4 to 9 JILAF conducted a survey of disaster conditions centered on the capital of Kathmandu and directly handed over a donation collected from labour-related organizations and others in Japan to the NTUC. The following is an emergency report on conditions in Nepal a couple of months after the quake.
Removal of Debris Not Making Headway in Kathmandu
Many old buildings in the capital of Kathmandu were destroyed, but despite the fact that over two months have passed since the earthquake struck, there is almost no heavy machinery to be seen in the city and the removal of debris is not making headway. (This may be due to the fact that priority has been given to the restoration of essential utilities in mountainous areas.) Furthermore, many evacuees are still living in tents in city parks.
The city of Bhaktapur, situated near Kathmandu, flourished as the capital in the fifteenth century, and the old town area has been designated as a World Heritage site. Many old buildings were destroyed in Bhaktapur as well, and many people lost their lives.
Here also recovery is not making much progress, and piles of debris can be seen everywhere along roads. There are a lot of buildings that look as though they would collapse further if an aftershock occurred.
We visited a cluster of 10 tents erected on a grassland area of Bhaktapur and spoke with the evacuees there.
These evacuees were living in a mountainous hamlet in the district of Sindhupalchok, about 50 kilometers to the northeast of Kathmandu, when the earthquake struck. They lost everything---their homes, fields, and many loved ones. Forty-six people from 18 households in the hamlet gathered whatever they could carry and came here by bus, a journey that took three to four hours.
So far they have received absolutely no assistance from the government and have had to rely on food provided by nongovernmental organizations and individuals. There is no electricity, and they cannot use battery lights because they have no batteries. At night households take turns to use their only solar-powered light. In the pitch dark, babies are frightened and cry. The children have been placed in a nearby public school, but the parents have no work and are very worried about the future.
*JILAF visited the tent village the next day and handed over solar lights brought from Japan to each tent, much to the delight of the evacuees.
Main Disaster Conditions
The earthquake in Nepal caused tremendous damage. As of July 9, 9,000 people were reported dead, 23,000 injured, and 375 missing, and about one million buildings were destroyed. Because of the earthquake, an additional five million people have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and about one million people are said to have fallen to the poverty line of $2 or less a day. Before the earthquake Nepal's per capita gross domestic product was only around $690 (1/67 of Japan's), and remittances from Nepalese working abroad accounted for a quarter of the country's GDP. The state of domestic employment was extremely frail, and the situation has been further aggravated by the earthquake.
JILAF Decides to Continue Assistance to Earthquake Victims in Nepal
On the day after the earthquake the NTUC headquarters held an emergency meeting to discuss countermeasures and ordered, among other things, the search for missing persons and removal of debris. The NTUC also, with the cooperation of a transport workers' union, arranged vehicles so that union members from the provinces who were working in Kathmandu could temporarily return to their hometowns and, with the cooperation of a health workers' union, implemented health and hygiene management for victims.
As has been reported in Japan as well, despite their own desperate economic situation, many Nepalese citizens offered support to victims. In order to implement continued assistance, the NTUC also collected 1 rupee (about 1.21 yen) from every union member and made a contribution to the government's earthquake relief fund, as well as asking related parties for their cooperation.
On July 6 JILAF handed over to the NTUC the donation that it had collected from union members in Japan at a May Day rally on April 29, as well as financial assistance entrusted by other related parties and so on. From now on also JILAF will continue to implement support for victims of the earthquake in Nepal, mainly through the NTUC, and regularly report on the state of assistance on its website.