Nepal's prime minister inaugurated a mega reconstruction plan for close to a million homes damaged by last year's deadly earthquakes in which thousands of people died on 16 January, nearly nine months after the disaster left hundreds of thousands homeless. Two tremors last April and May killed 9,000 people, injured more than 22,000 and left hundreds of thousands homeless, forcing many to brave freezing temperatures living in temporary shelters made from tarps and corrugated iron sheets.

Nepal's Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli visited Bungamati village in Kathmandu Valley to mark the start of the project.

"We have been devastated by the earthquake, but it has opened a road ahead for us with new directions and we'll follow accordingly," Oli said.

"We have started the reconstruction mega campaign from today, and I would like to welcome your support in this regard," he said.

The National Reconstruction Authority was launched in September but political squabbling has delayed the deployment of $4.1bn (£2.9bn) pledged by foreign donors for reconstruction.

Unicef estimates that more than 200,000 families affected by the quakes are still living in temporary shelters at an altitude above 1,500m, where harsh winter conditions will continue through February. The delay has been blamed for more than a dozen deaths since the onset of winter, mostly of people over 65, according to domestic media reports.

The disaster spurred the country's feuding politicians to set aside differences and adopt a new constitution after a seven-year delay. However, the charter sparked protests by ethnic Madhesi groups, who blocked key trade crossings with India and brought on severe fuel shortages. Aid agencies say the shortages have constrained efforts to transport blankets, clothing and other essential relief materials to earthquake survivors in mountainous areas.