It’s been six days since the 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, killing more than 5,630 people and injuring over 11,000. With an epicenter just 77km northwest of the densely populated capital city Kathmandu, the UN estimates as many as 8 million are affected.
Scattered chaotically around Kathmandu, people are sleeping in makeshift tents in the streets. Hundreds of thousands have lost their homes, while others are too terrified of aftershocks to return inside. More than 44 aftershocks, with magnitudes ranging from 4 to 6.7, have been felt across the region.
Tragedy strikes Mount Everest On Mount Everest, the earthquake triggered a series of avalanches, killing 18 and injuring 61. Helicopters have successfully rescued 140 climbers who were trapped at camps one and two.
Unknown toll in Kathmandu’s villages But in the villages surrounding Kathmandu, little is known about the severity of the situation: due to mountainous terrain, affected communities are remote and difficult to access. Landslides from the earthquake and heavy rains that started on Tuesday, and which are predicted to last for 10 days, have further hindered accessibility.
Tensions running high Tensions are increasing and reports of looting have begun as supplies of clean water and food are running low. Poor sanitation has led to waste piling up in the streets and worries about the spread of disease such as water-borne cholera and swine flu (due to an earlier outbreak) are high. The hospitals are overwhelmed and underequipped, with patients being treated on tarps in streets. Power is extremely limited throughout the city with most people relying on back-up generators.
Devastating loss for Nepal’s heritage In addition to the heartbreak and horror of the humanitarian situation, the Nepalese are devastated about the destruction of their cultural landmarks and heritage sites. Kathmandu Valley, a world-famous UNESCO Heritage site, contains seven groups of historical monuments and buildings dating as far back as the 5th century. Durbar Squares of Patan, Hanuman Dhoka and Bhaktapur have all been destroyed.
International Response A massive international relief effort is underway. The Nepalese government is leading relief efforts in coordination with the humanitarian country team. All UN Clusters have been activated and are working closely with major international organizations such as the Red Cross, CARE and Save the Children. Top donations include $15 million from the UN’s emergency fund, $15 million from the UK and $10 million pledged by the US.
Kathmandu’s airport receives aid shipments, but with only one runway, the area is congested and the process is slow. Emergency relief such as food, water, tents and hygiene kits have started to be distributed by helicopter and convoy.
The Nepalese government has identified 16 open areas where displacement camps are being set up. The hope is that these will provide shelter, food, water and medical attention until people can return to their homes.
How Can You Help? The pressure on international governments, organizations and aid workers to ‘get it right’ this time is high, as reminders of the failures from Haiti’s 2010 earthquake have flooded the media. But the international community learned from Haiti, both in terms of how to communicate on-the-ground priorities to foreign donors, and the importance of incorporating a long-term development plan into emergency response.
Organizations have been clear that funds, rather than in-kind donations or volunteers, are urgently needed to provide emergency relief and to start the recovery process. If you’re able to donate, the following are a number of international organizations that have an urgent appeal for Nepal. *Please note, this is not an official iguacu recommendation* USA: Red CrossInternational Medical CorpsSave the ChildrenCAREOxfam UK: Red CrossInternational Medical CorpsSave the ChildrenCAREOxfam For regular updates on the aftermath of Nepal’s earthquake, follow iguacu on twitter at: @iguacu_portal