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Nepal: A race against time

27 Apr 2015

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The earthquake caused widespread damage and loss of life. Credit: UNDP Nepal/Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi
 
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Humanitarian aid is beginning to flow into the worst-affected areas, but much more is needed as the scale of this disaster becomes all too clear.

A 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal on Saturday, near the capital of Kathmandu, flattening homes, buildings and temples, and causing widespread damage across the region. This is the largest earthquake the country has seen in more than 80 years, leaving thousands stranded and in dire need of food, water and shelter.
More than 8 million people have been affected by the earthquake, with the death toll already topping 3,300 and expected to rise, especially as search and rescue teams reach more remote areas, many of which remain cut off due to road blockages and network failures.

Needs skyrocketing

Humanitarian aid is beginning to flow into the worst-affected areas, but much more is needed as the scale of this disaster becomes all too clear – including medical tents, medication, surgical kits and body bags.

While the United Nations and other humanitarian specialists are on the ground, working around the clock, time is of the essence. Thanks to the tireless efforts of local communities, the Government of Nepal, and the fast-moving search and rescues teams, countless lives have already been saved.

Yet aftershocks continued to roil the area, and many people are sleeping out in the open, in makeshift tents, or are still stuck under the rubble. Heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected to continue for days, which might hamper rescue efforts by causing landslides. Most areas are without power and water, and hunger is on the rise, with more than 1.4 million people in need food assistance. Food trucks are on their way to affected districts outside Kathmandu Valley yet access remains a challenge as the main roads in some areas are damaged while remote areas in mountainous regions can only be accessed by air.

UN response

In response to the devastation, UN Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos today released US$15 million from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to allow international humanitarian aid organizations to rapidly scale up operations and provide immediate assistance to people in desperate need.
“With the monsoon season just two months away, we will be in a race against time to ensure that people affected by the earthquake receive the aid they require and to prevent a secondary crisis,” said Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos. “OCHA’s role in coordinating the arrival of first responders and supporting the scale-up of the response will be critical,” she said, adding that a five-person OCHA team has already arrived in Kathmandu and a 26-person UNDAC team is on its way to support the UN Resident Coordinator, the Humanitarian Country Team and the national authorities with response coordination, rapid needs assessment and information management.

At least 9 international Urban Search and Rescue teams have arrived from countries like Turkey, Spain and India, consisting of 287 personnel and 25 dogs, as well as foreign medical teams. A Humanitarian Staging Area (HSA) in Kathmandu International Airport has been set-up to avoid congestion at the main entry points of affected areas and ease the flow of life-saving commodities, where large-scale relief activities are being undertaken.

A Flash Appeal covering an initial three months is being developed and is expected to be launched on Wednesday.