Photos Highlight Nepal's Resilience After the 2015 Earthquake

Photojournalist Omar Havana portrays Nepali life in the aftermath of the disaster.
04_29_Nepal_SS_01
Photos Highlight Nepal's Resilience After the 2015 Earthquake Omar Havana/Getty

The moment his world began to tremble, photojournalist Omar Havana awoke, groggy and in disbelief. He and his fiancée climbed out of bed, sat on the floor of their home in Kathmandu, Nepal, and waited. It was only after they saw cracks appear in the walls that they raced down the stairs of their 12-story building. "All the neighbors were running behind us. We saw the corridors, everything falling down," Havana tells Newsweek. "When people later told me the shaking had lasted less than one minute, I didn't believe it—I thought it had been 15 or 20 [minutes]. But in that moment, your mind just tells you to run."

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that shook Nepal on April 25, 2015, was the country's worst in more than 80 years, killing more than 9,000 and injuring more than 22,000. Havana had lived in Nepal for about a year when the quake struck. He has since returned home to Spain, but remains committed to documenting Nepal's recovery.

"Just three weeks after the earthquake, Nepal disappeared from the world's attention," Havana said. "I want to show real life, not just the drama and the devastation."

[RELATED: One Year After a Devastating Earthquake, Nepal Is Still in Ruins]

Hundreds of aftershocks continued to ripple the nation on a near-daily basis after the initial quake. Almost 3 million people have become homeless, and many parts of the country still lie in ruins. Instead of photographing devastation for its own sake, Havana chose to focus on how Nepalis took to rebuilding their lives and their land.

While photographing a woman who is standing by a procession of bodies wrapped in blankets, Havana recalls her desperate cries. It was the day after the initial quake, and she was uncovering each body, searching for her mother. "When she found her, she was screaming, 'Mama, Mama!'" he said. "It was probably one of the worst moments of my life—her pain was like a knife in my heart."

Through his lens, Havana watched Nepalis trying to rebuild from the few things left to scavenge. People tore down what remained of ruined homes with ropes so they could start building anew. As the prices of construction materials soared, they combed the rubble, salvaging whatever bricks and pieces of wood they could find. Meanwhile, local and international organizations poured their efforts and funds into relief, rehabilitation and education.

Yet, to this day, Nepalis say they have not seen a penny of the $4 billion donated to restoring the country. A year later, government-provided temporary shelters dot the landscape and people survive on meager government handouts, but access to drinking water, food and health care remains scant, according to local aid groups.

Havana hopes to curate his work in a book called Endurance and do Nepalis' story justice. He is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $27,000 needed to make the book, with the goal of using excess funds to distribute copies to local families. "Endurance belongs to Nepal," Havana said. "I want the story of the Nepali people's response to the earthquake to be remembered."

Havana's work on the Nepal disaster has been among the most widely disseminated in Western media, but he maintains that four local photojournalists who were also documenting the quake—Prasiit Sthapit, Niri Shrestha, Navesh Chitrakar and Narendra Shrestha—deserve far more credit than what he, as a foreigner, has received.

04_29_Nepal_SS_01
Emergency rescue workers and bystanders find a survivor in the debris of Dharara tower after it collapsed on April 25, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the country that day was its worst in more than 80 years, killing more than 9,000 and injuring more than 22,000. Omar Havana/Getty