One fine morning at home, I was cleaning up the buffalo shed as usual. Suddenly one of the buffaloes swished its tail and hit me right in the eyes. The impact was very painful. And a month later, I had lost my vision completely.
Life after becoming visually impaired was very difficult and the earthquake of 2015 added to my struggles.
When the earthquake struck, I was at school in Ramuwa of Nepal’s Gulmi district, where I studied. There were also some other visually impaired students at the school. When the ground shook most of my classmates ran outside, but those of us who couldn’t see were left inside. It wasn’t until our teachers helped us out into the open playground that we felt safe. Our school buildings did not collapse thankfully. However, I sustained a minor injury during the second aftershock.
I did not have any home or assets in Gulmi. I was working as a helper in a house in Hunga and assisting the family with farming. I had left my house in 2001 to find a good job. I was the only one left in my family; I had lost my parents and sister at a very early age and had been raised by my aunt. Prior to coming to Gulmi, I had worked at a tea shop.
One and a half years after the earthquake, I returned home to Sindhupalchowk and started living with my aunt again.
I think it would be good if we had drills and simulations in all schools and villages to learn what to do when an earthquake occurs. Also, just as I had the assistance of my teachers to help me onto an open space, I feel that it would be good if each visually-impaired person—or anyone with a disability—could be attached to a teacher or a member of the community in cases of emergency. They could help us evacuate and assist in getting the benefits given by the government and NGOs.
In December 2016, UNDP had organized a community meeting in Irkhu market. One of the neighbours from my village, Sabitri, attended that meeting. When she found out that UNDP was looking to support poor, vulnerable, single, elderly, orphaned or people with disabilities in building earthquake-resistant model houses, she gave them my name. Later, I found out that I was going to be given a house.
My house is built with wire frame technology, which is earthquake resistant. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The house is accessible and disabled-friendly. There are pebble 'warning' blocks in the front of the house and hand rails at the front door and in the bathroom. I feel safe there.
The structure was built with the help of local masons from the village, who also received on-site training. It took almost 45 days to build the house. There were 12 people, including masons and carpenters, five of whom were women. They worked voluntarily for a day. The people from my community also helped transport of building materials, including stone and wood, and in providing lunch for the workers. I want to thank all of them. I would never have been able to build a house like this without their support. I have a solid roof over my head—it’s far more than I could’ve imagined having not too long ago.
For post disaster recovery for people with disabilities, I would advise international agencies to work on solutions that best meet the needs of such people. They could provide support to build a disabled-friendly house, enhance livelihood options or support the education of children. Clean drinking water and sanitation are also important aspects to consider.
UNDP’s Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Programme was able to help visually-challenged Khil Bahadur from Sindhupalchowk acquire both his identity papers and a roof over his head after the earthquake through the Resilient Communities Through Building Back Better project funded by the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission. The project helped build 65 similar Technology Demonstration Houses for quake-affected poor and vulnerable people, trained more than 1800 local masons and artisans, and reached out to more than 14,000 home owners on safer reconstruction practices and affordable housing technologies.