HELVETAS-NEPAL Dr. Prabin Manandhar’s Leadership

Helvetas-Nepal has been actively involved in numerous projects across the Karnali, Madhesh, and Koshi provinces. The organization has increased its responsibilities following the last year’s earthquake in Jajakot. Dr. Prabin Manandhar is the Country Director of Helvetas Nepal. He has extensive experience leading successful relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction projects in post-disaster areas. He has mobilized the entire team to work closely with provincial and local governments, as well as NGOs. Recently, Dr. Manandhar visited the earthquake-affected regions of Jajarkot and Rukum districts to assess the situation. During his visit, he met with local government officials, provincial leaders, NGOs, and his team to discuss areas where Helvetas Nepal can provide support in post-recovery and reconstruction efforts. Dr. Manandhar’s focus now is to reconstruct the resilient Jajarkot.

March 13, 2024, 9:28 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 17, No. 16, March.29,2024 (Chaitra,16. 2080) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

Dr. Prabin Manandhar, the Country Director of Helvetas Nepal, recently completed a weeklong visit to the earthquake -affected areas of Jajarkot and Rukum districts. Despite the hectic and extensive nature of the visit, Dr. Manandhar was able to identify the potential sectors where Helvetas Nepal can provide support in terms of reconstruction and recovery efforts.

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For an organization like Helvetas-Nepal, which already has numerous ongoing projects and programs in Koshi, Madhesh, and Karnali Provinces, the task of supporting earthquake reconstruction and recovery is an additional responsibility. However, it is important to note that Helvetas-Nepal's regular programs, ranging from WASH initiatives to youth employment and livelihood, are closely linked to the overall recovery process.

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During the visit, Dr. Manandhar was accompanied by his senior colleagues, as well as Aman Jonchhhe, the Program Management Specialist/Team Leader at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and a local NGO partner. Together, they inspected the affected areas and engaged in discussions with elected representatives of local and provincial governments, local NGOs, headmasters of schools, and the affected population.

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The team also included PROYEL Project Coordinator Aagya Pokharel, Om Khadka, Knowledge Management and IT Coordinator, Shreda Shrestha, Project Officer (GESI), Dinesh Pandey, Caroline Guillet, and Shraddha Karmacharya, from Helvetas Nepal Office.

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Helvetas-Nepal, a Swiss INGO, has been actively involved in various development sectors in Nepal for over six decades, including the construction of suspension bridges. Through its work, it has established itself as a reliable development partner dedicated to assisting those in need. The districts of Jajarkot and Rukum, both affected by earthquakes, are no exception to Helvetas-Nepal's efforts.

During his visit to Karnali Province as a country director and member of a stock taking team, Dr. Manandhar engaged in discussions with numerous officials in the earthquake-affected districts, as well as higher-ranking officials in the provincial capital of Surkhet. Additionally, Dr. Manandhar participated in the Annual Review and Planning 2024 of Helvetas Nepal's Karnali Provincial office.

One of the key meetings held by the team was with Chandra Prakash Gharti, the Mayor of Bheri Municipality, at his office in Khalanga, the district headquarters of Jajarkot. The purpose of this meeting was to explore the potential support that the Swiss government, through Helvetas Nepal, could provide for the reconstruction efforts.

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Aman Jonchhhe, the Program Management Specialist/Team Leader at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, also frequently intervened in the interactions.

Dr. Manandhar proposed the implementation of mason training before commencing the reconstruction process. He emphasized the importance of skilled and trained masons in building earthquake-resistant houses, highlighting their crucial role in the reconstruction efforts.

"We are implementing the ENSSURE project in Karnali province, which is related to youth employment, and planning to support the reconstruction process," said Dr. Prabin Manandhar, country director of Helvetas Nepal. We will need support from members of the Youth Panel. With 42 percent of the population being youth and 42 percent of elected representatives being young, youth are at the forefront of the country, and our project is no exception."

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Following the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, Dr. Manandhar spearheaded the Lutheran World Service Nepal organization in constructing over 5000 houses across various regions of Nepal as part of the Build Back Better project. Additionally, his organization facilitated a large-scale mason training program.

Mayor Chandra Prasad Gharti of Bheri Municipality approved the proposal for mason training to construct earthquake-resistant houses and expressed gratitude to Helvetas Nepal for their timely relief assistance.

"We require skilled masons for our rebuilding efforts. The proposal put forth by Helvetas Nepal is agreeable to us," Mayor Gharti declared during the meeting. "We appreciate the generous relief aid extended by the Swiss Embassy in Kathmandu through Helvetas-Nepal in the initial phase."

With the Municipality's endorsement, Helvetas Nepal is now progressing with the implementation of the Earthquake Resilient Mason Training program, aiming to train approximately 500 individuals.

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The Skills and Reconstruction Project, a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) initiative, seeks to support reconstruction efforts with a focus on gender sensitivity and social inclusion, ensuring that no one is left behind. Helvetas Nepal will be responsible for executing this project.

The second meeting was held with the officials of Hilly Region Development Campaign (HRDC), a local partner of Helvetas Nepal, in Khalanga. Dr. Pradip Jung Shahi, chairperson of the RDC, and other members briefed the status of ongoing projects.

Dr. Manandhar and his team visited Tribhuwan Secondary School in Nalgadh Municipality, Jajarkot district to interact with the students and teachers after the collapse of a classroom. The students are currently studying and taking exams in the open sky due to the lack of space. During a meeting with Helvetas Nepal country director, Gyanendra Bahadur Singh, the school's headmaster expressed concerns about the upcoming SEE exams and requested support for the reconstruction of the classroom.

The school, which has 1,200 students from ECD to class 12, is located in ward no. 1 of Nalgadh Municipality and is one of the largest high schools in the area. Given Helvetas Nepal's grassroots connections, earthquake victims in Jajarkot and Rukum are hopeful for support in the reconstruction and recovery process. Nalgadh Municipality is currently facing significant challenges due to limited resources and extensive damage, especially in the 13 schools that have been severely affected.

During the meeting between Mayor Damber Bahadur Rawat and country director Dr. Manandhar, it was emphasized that the municipality heavily depends on grants from the Federal and Provincial governments. Currently, the municipality is facing a shortage of resources. Mayor Rawat expressed hope for support from Helvetas-Nepal.

Due to the destruction of classrooms, students at Bheri Tribeni Higher Secondary School in Bheri Municipality Ward 1 are being taught in open spaces. Fortunately, the dry winter has been a blessing. However, Krishna Pariyar, a teacher at the school, mentioned that if there were to be any rainfall similar to that of the past, students would face significant challenges.

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Pariyar acknowledges that the municipal government lacks sufficient resources to construct all school buildings and classrooms at the moment. Among the municipalities severely affected by the earthquake, Bheri and Nalgadh Municipality have been actively seeking funds from development partners, including the Swiss Embassy and Helvetas Nepal. The reconstruction work is progressing under the dynamic leadership of Mayor Chandra Prakash Gharti.

Mayor Gharti expressed gratitude towards the Swiss Embassy and Helvetas Nepal for their collaboration in providing relief materials and temporary shelters to the municipality.

Dr. Manandhar also highlighted the contribution of the youth volunteers from Promotion of Youth Engagement in the Local Government Process (PROYEL), stating that Helvetas Nepal has been working in the district and municipality for a long time and provided relief materials shortly after the earthquake.

The earthquake that occurred on November 3, 2023, measuring 6.4 in magnitude, shook the Jajarkot and Rukum Districts. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Jajarkot, leading to the displacement of 60,478 families in the province, as per the data provided by the Karnali provincial government.

Despite more than three months passing since the disaster, only approximately 17,000 temporary huts have been constructed, leaving numerous displaced individuals living in inadequate tarpaulin tents.

As per the Temporary Housing Construction Grant Procedure for Earthquake-affected Households-2023, the federal government offers Rs. 50,000 in two installments to families whose homes were either completely or partially damaged and are now uninhabitable.

Data from the province's Internal Affairs Ministry indicates that Jajarkot has 35,140 applicants, while Rukum West and Salyan have 23,608 and 1,730 applicants, respectively.

After conducting visits to the earthquake-affected regions and holding discussions with local government officials, local NGOs, and the Headmaster, Dr. Manandhar engaged with the provincial ministers, including the chief minister of Karnali Province. Subsequently, Dr. Manandhar participated in the Annual Review and Planning 2024 of Helvetas Nepal’s Karnali Province office.

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During his address at the meeting, Dr. Manandhar emphasized the importance of close collaboration and coordination with provincial and local governments, as well as NGOs, to ensure the successful implementation of the project.

Dr. Manandhar, with the largest funding in the WASH sector in Karnali Province, has instructed provincial officials to allocate the funds towards rebuilding drinking water projects in areas affected by the earthquake. Helvetas-Nepal has consistently been at the forefront during major disasters and crises in Nepal.

The devastating earthquake in Jajarkot and Rukum districts of Karnali province, with its epicenter in Nalgadh Municipality in November 2023, along with subsequent aftershocks in April and May 2015, resulted in significant loss of lives and properties. Leading Helvetas-Nepal, the largest and oldest INGO in Nepal, is not an easy task. The country director already has a demanding workload on normal days, and the situation becomes even more complex and challenging during major disasters.

However, Dr. Manandhar has demonstrated that it is possible to accelerate the pace of development activities through close coordination and collaboration with project heads and employees.

During the field visit and participation in the annual review meeting of Helvetas Nepal's Karnali Provincial office, Dr. Manandhar, the country director, engaged in various meetings with the provincial chief minister, ministers, as well as the heads and members of local level governments in different regions.

Similarly, Dr. Manandhar also highlighted the significance of the PROYEL project in selecting youth for mason training, leveraging InElam's expertise to enhance livelihoods. Moreover, the InElam Project has initiated support for beekeeping farmers in the earthquake-affected districts.

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Dr. Manandhar spared two days in Surkhet discussing with Helvetas-Nepal’s The Helvetas-Nepal's Karnali provincial office, under the Integrated Water Resources Management Program (IWRMP), is currently implementing drinking water projects in the province, particularly in the districts affected by earthquakes. Dr. Manandhar emphasized the importance of prioritizing the earthquake-affected areas when planning and executing projects.

Madan Raj Bhatta, who is the head of Karali Province leading Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Program in Nepal, briefed the state of the ongoing programs in the region. He

Dr. Manandhar also mentioned that the upcoming implementation of the Enhanced Skills for Sustainable and Rewarding Employment (ENSSURE) program will create additional opportunities for youth employment. As Dr. Manandhar concluded his visit, he instructed Helvetas Nepal's Provincial Office to effectively carry out regular programs with a focus on recovery and immediate action.

Helvetas Nepal has recently issued a notification regarding the execution of a Skills Training program for Masons. The training will focus on Earthquake Resilient Construction Technology and will also include facilitation for the Skill Test with NSTB for the participants. This initiative aims to provide training to individuals affected by the earthquake in Karnali Province. The project intends to train a total of 500 masons.

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