International missions support Nepalis in the aftermath of the earthquake.
PICS: STÉPHANE HUËT
Immediately after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake
struck central Nepal on 25 April, the international community sprung into action -- sending relief and rescue teams.
In coordination with the Multinational Military Coordination Centre (MNMCC) of the Nepal Army, rescue and relief teams from 34 countries pulled dozens of people alive who were buried under collapsed houses and debris, dug out thousands of bodies and transported relief materials to some of the most remote and badly affected areas of the quake.
After an epic rescue mission, some international missions have already left Nepal and some are heading home in the next few days. The first phase of the search and rescue (SAR) operation is gradually ending in accordance with international practices.
“Rescue is really effective within the golden period of 96 hours,” said Colonel Sahadev Khadka, head of planning desk at MNMCC. “Although rescue work is still going on, we will now focus more on relief operations and medical treatment.”
For the civilian organisations, the international response is being coordinated by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Till Wednesday, 102 foreign organisations had registered with OCHA for 12 operating clusters.
Israel Defence Forces (IDF) set a field hospital in Chhauni on 29 April to provide free care to the people affected by the earthquake. Over 900 patients have been treated and over 50 surgeries have been performed in the hospital since its installation.
Lt. Libby Weiss, IDF’s spokesperson, said seven babies were born there. “It’s painful to see how the country has suffered,” she told Nepali Times, “but these deliveries gave a new surge of hope.”
Another important aspect in the health sector that needs immediate attention is the availability of clean drinking water and sanitation. Leszek Barczak, Public Information Officer at OCHA, said, “At this point, our priority is shelter and sanitation.”
Organisations involved in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) cluster are among the most solicited, as there is deficit of clean drinking water in most areas and the price of bottled water has gone up.
Keeping this in mind, the French Home Ministry’s General Directorate for Civil Protection has installed a water purification plant at Alliance française of Kathmandu (AfK) in Tripureshwor, which can provide 200,000 litres of drinking water every day.
Sujan Shrestha, 21, is a construction engineer who lives in Tripureshwor. Last Tuesday he got two jars of drinking water for his home from AfK. “As we have stopped working since the earthquake hit, this helps us save money when we get free drinking water,” he said.
Guillaume Jean, in charge of the treatment plant, said the purified water will also be provided to people at Khokana and Sankhu. “People from these areas wanted to purify their water,” he said. “AfK will provide the service of purifying their truckloads of water on the spot.”
Anchored International Relief will also use this purified water for their relief operations. Maverick Aaron, who coordinates the American organisation in Nepal, said: “We first assessed the needs and now we will operate in some regions that haven’t been reached yet.” Aaron and his team are heading to Kerabari to provide water, food and temporary shelter to its population.
The main challenge in the relief operations is the transportation of food, sanitation and health accesses in remote areas. Hence, World Food Programme (WFP) is coordinating the logistics with 30 organisations like Red Cross and International Organisation for Migrants (IOM).
Zoie Jones, communications officer at WFP, said they have been making distributions in six districts so far. “Humanitarian goods are first stored in the airport’s Humanitarian Staging Area (HSA) that was set one month before the earthquake in a partnership with the government of Nepal, the WFP and UK’s Department for International Development (DFID),” she told us. “They are then dispatched through our fleet of 25 trucks and three helicopters.”
WFP had capitalised Nepal Food Security Monitoring System’s (NeKSAP) field capacity since before the coordination, Jones added. Six teams were deployed to visit 10 of the most affected districts outside Kathmandu to assess the situation.
Like NeKSAP, many local groups are the backbone of this international response. Said OCHA’s Barczak: “They are our eyes and boots on the ground in the assessment phase.”
HSA to the rescue, Sahina Shrestha
Preparing to be prepared, Kunda Dixit
Mapping the aftermath, Ayesha Shakya
Giving to the living
Small is powerful