Villagers rebuild houses and pathways in the village of Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal, at the epicenter of the April and May 2015 earthquakes which killed 9000 people, April 6, 2016.
Villagers rebuild houses and pathways in the Himalayan village of Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal, at the epicenter of the April and May 2015 earthquakes which killed 9,000 people, April 6, 2016.James Nachtwey for TIME
Villagers rebuild houses and pathways in the village of Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal, at the epicenter of the April and May 2015 earthquakes which killed 9000 people, April 6, 2016.
Villagers work communally to rebuild houses and a new religious stupa in the village of Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal at the epicenter of the 2015 quakes, which destroyed most of the village, April 5, 2016.
Following the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal more than 600,000 homes were destroyed, Damage from the quakes is estimated at around $7 billion. Nearly one year later, villagers rebuild houses and pathways in the village of Barpak at the quake's epicenter, April 5, 2016.
Nearly a year after Nepal's earthquakes of 2015, villagers work at rebuilding with little or no government support, Barpak, Nepal, April 3, 2016.
A woman carries a child among wreckage in the village of Barpak, Nepal in Gorkha district, at the epicenter of the 2015 quakes, April 3, 2016.
A woman hangs laundry with the Buddha Himal mountain behind her in the Himalyan village of Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal. Though international donors stepped up to provide aid in the aftermath of the 2015 quakes, money for rebuilding homes has yet to reach victims. April 6, 2016.
A child combs her hair in the devastated village of Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal, a year after the 2015 quakes which destroyed most of the town, April 5, 2016.
Villagers work at rebuilding a year after the devastating earthquakes of 2015 in Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal, April 6, 2016.
Villagers rebuild houses in Barpak, in Gorkha district, at the epicenter of the 2015 earthquakes. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, landslides left Barpak and other remote villages cut-off from the rest of Nepal. Entire communities were rendered homeless and helpless overnight, April 7, 2016.
Villagers rebuilding houses in Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal, at the epicenter of the 2015 earthquakes, which were the worst natural disaster to befall Nepal in more than eight decades, April 7, 2016.
Workers rebuilding in the village of Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal, one year after the 2015 quakes which destroyed nearly the entire village, April 5, 2016.
Approaching the first anniversary of Nepal's 2015 quakes, money from international donors has yet to reach victims. A political fight overtook reconstruction efforts, leaving villagers in communities like Barpak, needing to rebuild on their own, April 7, 2016.
The village of Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal, at the epicenter of the 2015 quakes, which destroyed almost the entire village, April 5, 2016.
A family sits in an Informal tent encampment in central Kathmandu, Nepal. Approaching the first anniversary of the quakes of 2015, many people have been living in the squalid conditions of the camp for the past year. Some residents of the camp are from towns and villages in the region of Kathmandu, while others, some of whom are Nepalese migrant workers, are from more distant areas, March 31, 2016.
A woman and children at a squalid tent encampment in central Kathmandu, Nepal, nearly a year after the devastating 2015 earthquakes, March 31, 2016.
Approaching the first anniversary of the Nepal earthquakes, many people still live in squalid conditions in a tent encampment in central Katmandu, Nepal, March 30, 2016.
Wreckage from Nepal's 2015 earthquakes nearly one year later in the ancient city of Sankhu, Nepal, April 1, 2016.
Villagers rebuild houses and pathways in the Himalayan village of Barpak, in Gorkha district, Nepal, at the epicenter of
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James Nachtwey for TIME
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James Nachtwey: A Year After the Devastating Earthquake

Apr 14, 2016

In some sections of Nepal, the small South Asian nation that was devastated by two large earthquakes in April and May, 2015, it looks as if the disaster that killed nearly 9,000 people struck only weeks ago. Villages across the country remain strewn with rubble, the quake-victims living in tents and flimsy sheds. After being forced to endure a monsoon and the freezing Himalayan winter in temporary housing or in relief camps, thousands remain vulnerable as the country prepares for another set of monsoon rainstorms this summer. Yet, nearly a year on from the 7.8 and 7.3 magnitude ruptures, there is little sign of any rebuilding.

Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME 

“It was surprising to see just how little had been done over the course of the year,” says TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey, who returned to the country at the end of March. The first place visited by Nachtwey, who was in the country last year to record the immediate aftermath of the disaster, was a tented camp in Kathmandu. “It was right in the urban heart of the city,” he recalls. “People were living in makeshift tents in what is a pretty large encampment. It was striking that they were still here, in the center of the capital.”

The picture beyond the capital was no more encouraging. “There wasn’t much headway in fixing up the damage. In some places, the rubble had been pushed aside and building materials were stacked and ready to be used in rebuilding homes. But there was little activity.”

Across Nepal, millions were affected by the disaster, from the hills of Sindhupalchok, where 90% of homes were destroyed, to remote villages such as Barpak that was at the epicenter of the April quake, high up on a steep mountainside in the hard-hit north-western Gorkha district. In the days and weeks after the disaster, with furious landslides jamming routes all along the treacherous alpine terrain, numerous other remote villages were cut-off from the rest of Nepal, leaving them accessible only by helicopter. Communities large and small were rendered homeless and helpless overnight, as pent-up energy from the constant collision of two subterranean slabs of rock known as the Indian and Eurasian plates rippled out across one of the world’s poorest countries.

Read next: Nepal's Man-Made Disaster

To aid Nepal, international donors pledged $4.1 billion dollars at a June conference in Kathmandu. But the money to rebuild homes has been held back by Nepal’s fractious politics, as the country’s leaders engaged in a protracted fight over a new constitution that triggered violent protests among communities living along the country’s southern border with India. Known as Madhesis, members of these border communities have for years complained of being sidelined by the more dominant ethnic groups drawn from areas around Kathmandu. As they protested that the new constitution approved in September had been rushed through without adequate protections for their interests, the border was blocked for 135 days until the document was amended earlier this year. (Nepal blamed India for abetting the protestors, who have close language and cultural ties on the other side of the border; New Delhi denied the charge.)

For earthquake victims, the result was an almost complete stop in the rebuilding effort. Many analysts fear further turmoil, warning that the constitutional amendments didn't fully address the grievances of the protestors.

“You could see some private rebuilding work in Barpak, as the mountain community pulled together. But beyond that there was little sign of progress since last year,” says Nachtwey, who, as he travelled around Nepal, was repeatedly struck by the resilience of ordinary citizens forced to continue living among the rubble of their former homes.

James Nachtwey’s Dispatches From Nepal - Part 2

Nepal earthquake. Gumda Village, in Ghorka district. 5 people died and 14 are still missing in landslides. Inhabitants salvaging building materials from their destroyed houses. Funeral of Rejina Gurung, 3 who was just discovered buried in the rubble. Her mother, Bishnu Gurung, weeping in mourning. Rejina's father, Chabilal Gurung is a guest worker in Malaysia. by James Nachtwey
Bishnu Gurung sobs after her 3-year-old daughter, Rejina Gurung, was found buried in the rubble in the village of Gumda in Gorkha district, near the epicenter of last month's Nepal earthquake, on May 8, 2015. The baby’s father is a guest worker in Malaysia.James Nachtwey for TIME
Nepal earthquake. Gumda Village, in Ghorka district. 5 people died and 14 are still missing in landslides. Inhabitants salvaging building materials from their destroyed houses. Funeral of Rejina Gurung, 3 who was just discovered buried in the rubble. Her mother, Bishnu Gurung, weeping in mourning. Rejina's father, Chabilal Gurung is a guest worker in Malaysia. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Gumda Village, in Ghorka district. 5 people died and 14 are still missing in landslides. Inhabitants salvaging building materials from their destroyed houses. Funeral of Rejina Gurung, 3 who was just discovered buried in the rubble. Her mother, Bishnu Gurung, weeping in mourning. Rejina's father, Chabilal Gurung is a guest worker in Malaysia. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Gumda Village, in Ghorka district. 5 people died and 14 are still missing in landslides. Inhabitants salvaging building materials from their destroyed houses. Funeral of Rejina Gurung, 3 who was just discovered buried in the rubble. Her mother, Bishnu Gurung, weeping in mourning. Rejina's father, Chabilal Gurung is a guest worker in Malaysia. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Gumda Village, in Ghorka district. 5 people died and 14 are still missing in landslides. Inhabitants salvaging building materials from their destroyed houses. Funeral of Rejina Gurung, 3 who was just discovered buried in the rubble. Her mother, Bishnu Gurung, weeping in mourning. Rejina's father, Chabilal Gurung is a guest worker in Malaysia. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Young Buddhist monks from Hinang Gompa (monastery) in the village of Lhi in Gorkha district in the Annapurna Range of the Himalayas were transported by Indian Army helicopter to Pokhara because the monastery was damaged in the earthquake. A boy was injured in the mountain village of Dhunchet and with his father was evacuated  by Indian Army helicopter. Mountain villages outside Pokhara that were destroyed. Food drops by Indian Army helicopters.  by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Young Buddhist monks from Hinang Gompa (monastery) in the village of Lhi in Gorkha district in the Annapurna Range of the Himalayas were transported by Indian Army helicopter to Pokhara because the monastery was damaged in the earthquake. A boy was injured in the mountain village of Dhunchet and with his father was evacuated  by Indian Army helicopter. Mountain villages outside Pokhara that were destroyed. Food drops by Indian Army helicopters.  by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Young Buddhist monks from Hinang Gompa (monastery) in the village of Lhi in Gorkha district in the Annapurna Range of the Himalayas were transported by Indian Army helicopter to Pokhara because the monastery was damaged in the earthquake. A boy was injured in the mountain village of Dhunchet and with his father was evacuated  by Indian Army helicopter. Mountain villages outside Pokhara that were destroyed. Food drops by Indian Army helicopters.  by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Young Buddhist monks from Hinang Gompa (monastery) in the village of Lhi in Gorkha district in the Annapurna Range of the Himalayas were transported by Indian Army helicopter to Pokhara because the monastery was damaged in the earthquake. A boy was injured in the mountain village of Dhunchet and with his father was evacuated  by Indian Army helicopter. Mountain villages outside Pokhara that were destroyed. Food drops by Indian Army helicopters.  by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Young Buddhist monks from Hinang Gompa (monastery) in the village of Lhi in Gorkha district in the Annapurna Range of the Himalayas were transported by Indian Army helicopter to Pokhara because the monastery was damaged in the earthquake. A boy was injured in the mountain village of Dhunchet and with his father was evacuated  by Indian Army helicopter. Mountain villages outside Pokhara that were destroyed. Food drops by Indian Army helicopters.  by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Barpak, the epicenter of the earthquake. Inhabitants salvaging building materials and possessions from their destroyed houses. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Barpak, the epicenter of the earthquake. Funeral of Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, who had just been dug out of the rubble. Saainli Gurung, his mother weeping. Scenes of villagers salvaging building materials and personal possessions. Dhan Raj Ghale, 30, dressed in mourning garb after the death of his wite, salvaging buildings materials and possessions from his house. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Barpak, the epicenter of the earthquake. Funeral of Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, who had just been dug out of the rubble. Saainli Gurung, his mother weeping. Scenes of villagers salvaging building materials and personal possessions. Dhan Raj Ghale, 30, dressed in mourning garb after the death of his wite, salvaging buildings materials and possessions from his house. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Barpak, the epicenter of the earthquake. Funeral of Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, who had just been dug out of the rubble. Saainli Gurung, his mother weeping. Scenes of villagers salvaging building materials and personal possessions. Dhan Raj Ghale, 30, dressed in mourning garb after the death of his wite, salvaging buildings materials and possessions from his house. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Barpak, the epicenter of the earthquake. Funeral of Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, who had just been dug out of the rubble. Saainli Gurung, his mother weeping. Scenes of villagers salvaging building materials and personal possessions. Dhan Raj Ghale, 30, dressed in mourning garb after the death of his wite, salvaging buildings materials and possessions from his house. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Barpak, the epicenter of the earthquake. Funeral of Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, who had just been dug out of the rubble. Saainli Gurung, his mother weeping. Scenes of villagers salvaging building materials and personal possessions. Dhan Raj Ghale, 30, dressed in mourning garb after the death of his wite, salvaging buildings materials and possessions from his house. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Barpak, the epicenter of the earthquake. Funeral of Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, who had just been dug out of the rubble. Saainli Gurung, his mother weeping. Scenes of villagers salvaging building materials and personal possessions. Dhan Raj Ghale, 30, dressed in mourning garb after the death of his wite, salvaging buildings materials and possessions from his house. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Barpak, the epicenter of the earthquake. Inhabitants salvaging building materials and possessions from their destroyed houses. by James Nachtwey
Nepal earthquake. Gumda Village, in Ghorka district. 5 people died and 14 are still missing in landslides. Inhabitants salvaging building materials from their destroyed houses. Funeral of Rejina Gurung, 3 who was just discovered buried in the rubble. Her mother, Bishnu Gurung, weeping in mourning. Rejina's father, Chabilal Gurung is a guest worker in Malaysia. by James Nachtwey
Bishnu Gurung sobs after her 3-year-old daughter, Rejina Gurung, was found buried in the rubble in the village of Gumda
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James Nachtwey for TIME
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“I saw this last year, in the days and weeks after the earthquake," he adds. "What struck me then was how, in the face of so much physical destruction and in many cases family tragedy, ordinary people responded with tremendous resilience. In mountain districts like Gorkha, they were beginning right away to put their lives back together,” he recalls. "Today, the situation remains desperate. But the people in Barpak and other mountain communities continue to display an immense inner strength and fortitude amid such devastation."

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.

Nikhil Kumar is TIME’s South Asia Bureau Chief. Follow him on Twitter @nkreports.

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