Nepal: UN and partners scale up emergency response activities

26 April, 2015
Credit: UNICEF
Credit: UNICEF
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In the immediate aftermath of the powerful earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April, the United Nations and its partners are scaling up operations while trying to get a comprehensive picture of the damage to address the most urgent needs. The efforts are challenged by strong aftershocks and the threat of widespread rain and thundershowers which will likely hit the country over the next 24 hours and could seriously hamper relief efforts.

One of the priorities remains saving the lives of the survivors. To this end, an UNDAC team has been deployed to set up an On-Site Operations Coordination Center (OSOCC) with the primary goal to coordinate search and rescue efforts.

A number of International Search and Rescue (SAR) teams have been deployed and have begun operations including from India, Pakistan, China, and Israel. A UK SAR team of 90 personnel is expected to arrive in Kathmandu tomorrow. An American medical team consisting of eight personnel already stationed in Nepal have already been deployed.

As feared, the death toll has raised to over 2,200 deaths, with almost 6,000 people injured, which continues to strain the national health system. While the main hospitals in Kathmandu are still standing and functioning, although overloaded, some damage has been reported to hospitals in Ramechap, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchowk. In Gorkha, damage is very severe but it remains unclear whether hospitals continue to be operational.

The World Heath Organization (WHO) is deploying an emergency team to help address the most urgent health issues, including post-earthquake diseases, and has prepositioned surgical kits which are now being distributed. The World Food Programme (WFP) is also on the ground, providing food items and trucks for distribution.

"Toward evening, hospitals were trying to accommodate a huge influx of patients, some with amputated limbs, and were running short of supplies like bandages and trauma kits", said Jamie McGoldrick, UN Resident Coordinator in Nepal. "Water supplies, a problem under normal circumstances in this fast-growing city, will almost certainly run short", he said. "Search and rescue personnel will face the challenge of reaching villages nearer the quake’s epicenter, about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu, where damage may be catastrophic. A full-scale assessment is not yet complete, but this was a particularly large earthquake and a very shallow one so we are expecting high and significant damage, especially in Lamjung, Gorkha district [the epicentre of the earthquake].”

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