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June 2015 Cover Story

Published on: 2015-06-23 00:00:00     1005 times read    0  Comments
 
Forty-one percent (7,532) schools out of 18,289 were completely destroyed in 49 districts, but 4,650 schools are affected in 14 major-hit districts. 2,106 toilets and 1,363 drinking water fountains in schools were also destroyed.
 
--By Transcend Members 
 
The devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake of April 25 disrupted the lives of nine million people – almost a third of the population. A second one of magnitude 7.3 on May 12 further complicated getting aid to survivors mainly in central Nepal.
 
Home Ministry data shows 49 quake-hit districts. Among them, 14 districts including Sindhupalchowk, Kathmandu, Nuwakot, Dolakha and Dhading have been the hardest hit. Over 8,500 people died; almost three-times more, 24,000 were injured. The Multinational Military Coordination Center reported that over 1,400 people were rescued by air, but 1,500 people alone were rescued by the Nepal Army. Another 1,500 people were evacuated by road. 
 
Handicap International estimates 30 percent of the wounded suffered head, limb and spinal injuries. However, WHO speculates that 12 percent of the injured sustained spinal injuries which need life-time rehabilitation. Many of the injured, cured and displaced have nowhere to go.
 
Up until May 19, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that a total of 63,885 private homes out of 68,000 in Sindhupalchowk were fully destroyed. In other areas the figures are, 57,943 houses in Nuwakot, 48,880 in Dolakha, 43,741 in Dhading, 36,973 in Kathmandu and 7,040 in Rasuwa. 
 
Similarly, a total of 756,000 houses have been fully destroyed of which 2,607,373 houses are partly damaged. 494,936 temporary houses are to be made in the countryside before the rainy reason (mid-June). The Global Fairness Initiative and the Brick Clean Group Nepal estimate 40 percent of houses in the valley are safe to live in while another 40 percent need repairs. 
 
As of May 20, 10,803 government buildings have been fully destroyed, marked with a red sticker and 15,034 houses have been marked by a yellow sticker as they are partially destroyed. 41 percent (7,532) schools out of 18,289 were completely destroyed in 49 districts, but 4,650 schools are affected in 14 major-hit districts. 2,106 toilets and 1,363 drinking water fountains in schools were also destroyed.
 
An estimated 200 Buddhist nuns and monks died after more than 1,000 monasteries collapsed in the hardest-hit 14 districts.
 
Most of the ministries including the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) and its secretariat and the National Planning Commission inside Singhadurbar have been severely damaged with ministries setting up offices temporarily under tents. 
 
The great quake also destroyed many health posts and maternity hospitals. The UN Population Fund estimates that about two million women-girls of reproductive age and some 126,000 pregnant women have been affected. Also psychological trauma has greatly affected senior citizens, women and children.
 
Private and public homes and buildings which are still erect even after the quake and repeated aftershocks may collapse during the monsoon. The District Natural Disaster Rescue and Relief Committee, Gorkha proposes shifting 2,314 Barpak (the epicenter of the quake) houses of 22 Village Development Committees to safer places before the monsoon fearing further collapse by landslides. 
 
The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) points to at least 3,000 landslides due to large landmass movement in the Himalayas and flooding. It has also identified the formation of artificial lakes and sketched the weak status of glacial lakes within the quake-affected areas. The massive avalanche triggered by the disaster killed 18 people including a Google engineer Dan Fredinburg at Mount Everest base camp and injured more than 60. Still 112 foreigners are unaccounted for in Nepal.
 
The international community and friendly neighbours namely India, China, USA, UK, Norway, Australia, Canada, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Russia and others provided search and rescue operations along with humanitarian support under the coordination of the Nepal Army. 
 
A U.S. helicopter carrying six marines and two Nepali soldiers crashed on its route to earthquake-stricken Dolakha district on May 12 killing all on board. The friendly countries have announced huge financial assistance in cash and kind for immediate search, rescue and relief operations, short-term recovery and rehabilitation and long-term reconstruction.
 
Coordinating humanitarian teams from 35 different countries including the local Armed Police force and Nepal Police, the Nepal Army put all its resources and manpower into search and rescue operations and relief distribution. The Nepal Army mobilized its personnel soon after the quake struck Nepal despite limited resources and equipments.
 
India was the first country to respond with a full-fledged rescue and relief support mission under the name of Operation Maitri (Close Friendship). Within fifteen minutes of the quake, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted first and dispatched search, rescue and relief materials including medical teams to Nepal. More than ten teams from the National Disaster Response Force and Indian Air Force including several search and rescue dogs arrived in Nepal within six to seven hours of the earthquake. PM Modi spoke with Nepal’s PM Sushil Koirala and assured him of his all-round support and assistance. The Indian Army sent three top military commanders with five air force helicopters.
 
Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang sent a message of condolence to the Prime Minister and pledged to offer assistance. Similarly, Xi Jinping, the President of China also sent his condolences and said that China was “willing to offer all necessary disaster assistance”. China sent a number of search and rescue teams and dogs including tents, blankets and generators and helicopters.
 
On May 15, Indian PM Modi and his Chinese counterpart Keqiang in Beijing agreed to work jointly with Nepal in its recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development endeavors respecting the country’s independence and sovereignty. Both leaders vowed to support Nepal without any preconditions.
 
The British Embassy stated that they would treat 18,000 injured people, rebuild 1,000 damaged health posts, provide immunization for 3,000 children and access to family planning for 48,000 women. On May 20, the US Embassy in Kathmandu stated that they would continue to work for earthquake response and recovery works besides providing additional emergency shelter materials, safe drinking water, hygiene kits and improved sanitation to the most critical districts as well as assisting in law enforcement and justice sectors.
 
On May 12, Japan announced an Emergency Grant Aid of USD 14 million to support food, emergency medical care, shelter, health, water and sanitation to the most affected areas through the World Food Program, International Federation of Red Cross, UNICEF and so forth. There had been great hopes with multilateral donors namely the World Bank, Asia Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, but their grant did not attract that much for Nepal.
 
A leading appeal by British actress Joanna Lumley collected more than Rs. 7 billion in donations to support Nepal’s quake-hit victims. Dalai Lama, Facebook, GoFundMe, Google.org, Microsoft and others also donated to relief and recovery.
 
However, there is a lack of proper coordination among the government bodies, political parties and others. Rescue, relief and recovery work reached accessible areas on the one hand, but continuous aftershocks and landslides have been a major worry in the remote areas. 
 
Political parties are sending their activists to build temporary settlements in the affected areas, but seek cash for volunteers. Even though the government has released Rs. 5.53 billion to provide relief packages in the 38-quake hit districts, not all victims have received the allocated cash of Rs. 15,000 to buy zinc sheets for their temporary huts before the monsoon approaches.
 
Lawmakers have warned that there could be serious security threats to the leaders of the political parties if they fail to promptly provide search and rescue operations, deliver adequate relief materials and initiate recovery and rehabilitation works. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala himself admits to the poor response.
 
On April 29, the United Nations launched a USD 415 million emergency appeal aiming to support government efforts to address the most critical needs of the millions of quake-affected people namely shelter, water and sanitation, food security and protection for the next three months across 39 of 75 districts. 
 
The government has established a fund of Rs. 200 billion with seed money of Rs. 20 billion and appealed to the international donor community to provide Rs. 180 billion to carry out rehabilitation and reconstruction. However, international community interest has been lukewarm. 
 
At least USD 5 billion is needed to rebuild private and public houses including historic heritage buildings, schools, hospitals and government offices. Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world. The country ranks 145th out of 187 on the UN Human Development Index. So, Nepal now needs debt relief for short-term quake recovery and long-term infrastructure development and stability. Quake-hit Nepal is one of the 38 countries eligible for debt relief by international donors. Haiti received debt relief after an earthquake in February 2010 and Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone were granted debt relief following the Ebola outbreak.
 
(Source: TRANSCEND Media Service - TMS: An Impact Assessment of a Great Earthquake in Nepal).

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