Nepal earthquake: life in a Kathmandu relief camp

    One of the biggest relief camps in earthquake-affected Nepal, situated in the capital Kathmandu, is currently providing shelter to at least 10,000 people. Photojournalist SHOWKAT SHAFI was there to find out how people displaced by the earthquake are surviving.

    On 25 April, Nepal was hit by a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale. It has killed thousands of people, injured thousands more, and destroyed almost 300,000 homes and heritage buildings in this Himalayan nation.

    The Nepalese army is running one of the largest relief camps in Kathmandu at the Tundikhel parade ground, but it relies on local and international NGOs for donations of food and water.

    Relief Camp (2)

    The affected people are living in different relief camps across the country. Estimates suggest 2.8 million people have been displaced by the earthquake.

    Relief Camp (3)The biggest relief camp, where more than 10,000 people are living, is at the army ground in Kathmandu. “We took over the camp on 27 April. The whole area was dirty as more than 11,000 people spent two nights under open sky. Due to the efforts of many international NGOs, we got access to water and sanitation and the make-shift toilets for both men and women. We are a team of 250 Nepalese army [officers] working in the camp,” said Prayog Rana, the Nepalese army colonel in charge of the relief camp.

    Relief Camp (4)Children have been missing out on school and can be seen roaming around in the camp. According to Unicef, nearly one million children in Nepal will not be able to return to school.

    Relief Camp (5)There is an ever-present threat of an outbreak at the relief camp, where displaced people fear contracting an infectious disease due to a lack of access to clean water and sanitation. “We are trying our best to maintain sanitary conditions, but with so many people, it is tough. Attempts are being made to provide water-purification tablets so that water borne diseases can be prevented,” an aid worker said.

    Relief Camp (6)The camp is severely overcrowded. Hera Bahadur Shahi and 35 family members are living in a single tent in the relief camp. In some camps there are three or four families living together.

    Relief Camp (9)The basic amenities of life are missing from the camp, including mattresses and bedding. Here, two children lie on a thin layer of foam, placed over cardboard boxes.

    Relief Camp (7)
    Children, women and men form queues to receive food. The residents of the relief camps have been surviving on rationed food and water. Food here mostly comprises packed biscuits or slices of bread. The food is handed out individually to each and every person.

    Relief Camp (8)

    The Nepalese army, who are running the relief camp, distribute food twice a day. Water has become a major concern in this situation. “We get water three times a day (1 liter per person) and food twice a day. I don’t know for how long we will survive on biscuits and breads. We miss eating our rice with vegetables,” said Yogita Sheshtra, who is living in the camp.

    Relief Camp (10)The tents were provided by Nepalese army and many international NGOs. Women at the camp say they feel unsafe sleeping outside, in the tents, and sharing a living space with so many people.

    “These tents are overcrowded and uncomfortable. I haven’t slept properly ever since I came here, because I am always scared and I feel unsafe sleeping like this,” said Dina Shahi, 35, whose house was devastated by the deadly quake and who now lives in a make-shift tent.

    Relief Camp (11)The people are given biscuits or a slice of bread two times a day and water three times per day.

    Relief Camp (12)Colonel Rana, who is in charge of the relief camp, said it is impossible to provide food to these displaced people living there without the help of international NGOs.

    Relief Camp (13)Many parents are worried about the future of their children as they are missing out on going to school.

    Relief Camp (14)People spend their day talking about their memories of their houses that were destroyed by the earthquake.

    Showkat Shafi bio picShowkat Shafi is a freelance news photographer and has completed assignments for Al Jazeera English and The New York Times. He was born in Kashmir. Follow him on Twitter.