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Sunday, 3 May 2015

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Why Nepal response will be so hard

International aid is beginning to flow into earthquake-hit Nepal, but much more is needed as the scale of the disaster becomes clear and the list of challenges grows.

Damaged houses in Gorka,seen from an Indian Army helicopter
(Sajjad Hussein/AFP/Getty images)
 

“Three million of them are children, all affected within the space of one day,” said Jean-Jacques Simon, chief of regional communications for the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

“There is an urgent need for temporary shelter in the 16 displacement camps in the Kathmandu valley, and the many more around the region,” said Simon. In hardest-hit areas, 50 percent of homes and buildings are thought to have been destroyed. In the many camps that have been established for those whose homes have collapsed or who are simply too scared to return, clean water and better sanitation is a key concern. Cholera is endemic in Nepal. Medical supplies and personnel are also urgently required, International Medical Corps said in a statement over the weekend.

“There are so many injured people, and not enough space, so people are parked outside. People are also too afraid to be inside [the hospitals] because of the tremors,” said Simon.

“From what I saw yesterday, there is clearly a lack of medicines, and the morgue is very full,” he added.

Access, capacity and weather hamper aid effort

Poor communications are hampering the government and aid agency efforts to assess the damage caused by the quake. Districts closest to the epicentre - Gorkha, Makwanpur and Lamjung - are still proving almost impossible to access. “Our teams are just going to the villages and towns outside Kathmandu today. It’s a very difficult job. There are landslide fears, and it’s drizzling now, so the weather is not helping,” Devendra Singh Tak, Country Director of Save the Children India, told IRIN. “But the government has given clear instructions to start distributing. So the challenge for NGOs is to find solutions and get out there,” Tak added.

Save the Children is struggling to find warehouse space for the surge of aid that will be required. Kathmandu’s small international airport is struggling to cope with the flow of relief supplies, aid workers and journalists arriving and residents trying to escape. Prone to congestion at the best of times, there are now major delays.

“There is complete chaos at the airport right now,” said Tak. “It’s unable to cope with the scale of the problem.” Flying in from Delhi, normally a 1.5-hour flight, took Tak 11 hours from departure lounge to the arrival hall in Tribhuvan International Airport, including two hours circling Kathmandu, waiting to land. Along with physical relief items, more people are required to help ease the burden on local teams, said Tak.n

“We at Save the Children have a large [local] team - but everyone has a personal crisis to deal with first.”

(IRIN)

 

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