Nepal’s credit union movement has been working to help members recover after last year’s earthquake, in which nearly 9,000 lives were lost. Around 900,000 homes were also damaged in the earthquake. The Nepal Federation of Saving and Credit Cooperative Union Limited (NEFSCUN) estimates that the earthquake has taken the lives of more than 600 of its members.
A year on from the earthquake, the rebuild process is slow, and 770,000 households continue to wait for promised subsidies to rebuild their homes. Work on the reconstruction started in January this year.
A number of saving and credit co-operative (Sacco) buildings were also damaged in the earthquake, which posed greater challenges in conducting regular activities. To help the country’s credit unions get back on their feet, the World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu), through its Worldwide Foundation has offered a $175,000 grant to repair building structures, replace equipment and train management officers in disaster recovery.
As well as supporting the reconstruction process, the grant helped provide psychological counselling services to NEFSCUN staff and members. The grant enabled 220 Saccos to receive essential basic operating office equipment, software support, stationary, relocation support and lost information recovery assistance. Another 41 Saccos were repaired and reconstructed while 23 co-operative managers and NEFSUN officers received psychological training.
NEFSCUN is the country’s apex organisation of saving and credit co-operatives operating in 73 districts. Its members help provide financial services to 2.1 million people. Its members train around 10,000 credit union leaders and staff a year.
With Woccu’s financial support, NEFSCUN provided technical construction training to 21 Sacco members and also assisted with rebuilding efforts. Co-operative members have received first aid training and attended to other wounded members. The rehabilitation and rebuilding activities took place in 14 districts across Nepal. Out of the hardest hit Saccos, 77 needed to move to another location to provide immediate financial services.
Co-operatives from across the world have launched appeals to support members in Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake. These included the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada, the World Council of Credit Unions and the Asian Confederation of Credit Unions. In the UK the Co-operative Group raised over £35,000 for Nepal’s victims while the Midcounties Co-operative’s appeal resulted in £40,000.
Woccu’s effort in Nepal is part of its wider campaign to support credit unions affected by natural disasters. Over the past six years the organisation has also provided support to credit unions in Chile, Haiti, El Salvador, Malawi and the Philippines.