Updates from Nepal Country Director Dhirendra Lamsal
April 30, 2015
The death toll has so far reached 6,000 and more than 11,000 people are said to be injured by a large earthquake that shook Nepal on 25 April 2015. The death toll could rise as final reports from the earthquake affected hilly districts and even from within the Kathmandu Valley are yet to be compiled. It could take weeks to collect details of information about the human casualties and property damaged by the earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale. The National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) has said more than 6.6 million people have been directly affected by the tremor and around one million people have been rendered homeless. The Home Ministry of Nepal has said that more than 400,000 private houses, government buildings and heritage sites were either completely destroyed or partially damaged by the tremor mostly in the Sindhupalchowk, Kathandu Valley (Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur), Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre, Nuwakot districts.
The most important task right now is to carry out immediate rescue and relief operation. A woman was rescued alive from a collapsed house at Banasthali after 67 hours. There could be other people trapped in the rubble of the destroyed houses in other parts as well. Chances of the people being rescued alive even after a week of the earthquake cannot be ruled out. So the rescuers are searching for those who could still be trapped inside the debris in other places of Kathmandu and 11 other badly hit districts.
Another main area of immediate attention is to provide relief assistance to the needy people who have been rendered homeless. It has been 6 days since the massive tremor shook Nepal but the relief assistance is not reaching to the most affected people and children of hilly regions and in many areas of Kathmandu Valley. The government efforts to provide relief assistance have been very slow and ridiculously inadequate. The limited relief materials and medicines received from outside the country have not reached to the affected areas because of sluggish govern procedures. Reports from Gorkha, Dadhig, Nuwakot, Kavre and Sindhupalchowak districts which are not away from the capital suggest that no relief materials and medicines have reached so far. The temporary settlement plan has not been adequately done because of lack of materials and supplies. Poor handling of the emergency situation by the government has exposed its utter unpreparedness in such a national crisis. Special attention should be given to Sindhupalchwak, Dhading, Nuwakot, Kavere and many other areas of Kathmandu Valley where a large number of people have been killed and property destroyed. It is meaningless if the relief assistance is not distributed to the affected people on time.
The affected people of the badly hit areas are undergoing tremendous suffering and hardship for not having daily food, supplies, utilities and a place to live. Hundreds of thousands of people are waiting to receive the relief assistance in the districts. Those people who survived the earthquake have died because of not getting basic life saving needs for water, medicines and food. So, it is very urgent to at least provide the life saving assistance package as early as possible.
The threat of epidemic and other health problems, which often follow natural catastrophes, looms large. The focus of the government health officials and workers and the public at large must take adequate preventive measures. Major hospitals are overcrowded with the injured, and they are finding it extremely difficult to cope with the pressure, particularly because of the shortage of medicines and various other facilities such as medical equipments, beds and materials/supplies.
Most of the people have been living under tents or even without them in almost all the open spaces available outside their houses. Their need to pay the calls of Nature, to live and eat close together, the difficulty in getting food, medicines and safer drinking water in adequate quantities, let alone healthy stuffs, and problems sanitation and hygiene – such things are breeding grounds for various diseases that could well take on epidemic proportions after their first occurrence. After the trauma and mental pressure that people have been facing since Saturday, several quake-related health problems, including metal one, are also reported to be rising. Public health should not be taken lightly. People need to be educated before the outbreak of any diseases and be provided related materials to reduce the chances of the health hazards.
The National Center for Learning Resources (NCLR) and the Network for Children, Prisoners and Dependants (NCPD) which run under the umbrella of ICRI-Nepal have been providing assistance and support for the children and families of around 35 areas of Kathmandu Valley and other 55 locations of the 11 districts. More than 600 people including 200 children will be provided the relief package in coming 1 week.
There has not been any report of human casualties in these 55 areas of ICRI-Nepal’s work since the earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday but damages of property have been reported from 3 NCPD member organizations and 2 NCLR schools.
The compound wall of VSRP/PFN and UCEP Nepal has been completely destroyed by the quake with minor cracks on inside walls of their children’s home. One of the walls of the north side of kitchen of UCEP Nepal has fall off. They are cooking food outside in an open area. Similarly, there has been a report of minor cracks in one of their 2 buildings of Parizat Nestling Home.
The National Children’s Orphanage/Bal Mandir’s building on the north side has completely been disintegrated during the earthquake. Also, there is a major crack in both first and second floors of the main building including the ceiling of 2nd floor. However, there is no report of any human casualties. Around 86 children of NCO/Bal Mandir are now temporarily staying in an organization called “Paropakar.” The other building of NCO/Bal Mandir in Thecho, Sifal and Pachkhal are in good condition.
We also received a report of damage from the Pragati School. The wall of the old building situated on the west side of the main building has fallen down and this seems to dismantled. The adjoining building also requires a vulnerability test from the construction engineers. The school is closed for 2 weeks. We are planning to set me a meeting with Pragati School authorities as soon as possible. We are yet to receive reports of damage from a few schools including Choina.
We need more assessment of the properties from a structural engineer to understand exact amount of loss of the properties. We also need to have vulnerability test of all the schools and NCPD group homes. We need some funds to pay for the engineers for this work.
We plan to provide immediate relief assistance to 100 families, approximately 600 people, from the hardly hit areas of 11 districts including Kathmandu Valley. This includes; 19 NCLR working communities, 9 communities of NCPD’s member organizational operational areas and 5 locations of each district of 11 highly affected districts.