By Nichola Jones IFRC
Four weeks after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake ravaged Nepal, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging donors to step in to provide life-saving support as monsoon season draws near.
Hundreds of thousands of people remain without shelter, having endured the first earthquake on 25 April and a second on 12 May. Mandbadur Nepali smashed both of his heels when he jumped down a flight of stairs in a desperate bid to escape a crumbling three-storey building when the second quake hit Chautara in Sindhupalchok.
“I had been working in the building when it happened and when it began to shake, I tried to run down the stairs,” he said. “I got to the final staircase and lost my balance so tried to jump to the bottom to get out. I broke the bones in both of my heels – one of my friends dragged me out.”
The 33-year-old father was treated at the nearby Red Cross field hospital where both his legs are now in casts. He faces a long and painful road to rehabilitation but is more concerned with what will happen when he is discharged. “I can cope with the pain and the treatment has been very good here, but what will I do when I get out of here? My home was damaged in the first quake – now it’s totally gone,” he said. With no home, the future is uncertain. “Soon the monsoon will come and I don’t know how I am going to protect my family from that.”
The IFRC expanded its emergency operation in the wake of the second quake and is appealing for $93 million US dollars to support 700,000 people with long-term shelter, healthcare, and water and sanitation services, in addition to immediate relief.
The second wave of destruction on 12 May compounded people’s suffering, particularly in the Dolakha and Sindhupalchok districts where more than 90 per cent of buildings have been reduced to rubble and thousands of people were killed.
Martin Faller, the head of the IFRC delegation in Nepal said Movement partners were bringing tents, tarpaulins and other supplies into the country every day, but it was difficult to keep up with growing needs. “The longer people are forced to live in poor, unsanitary conditions among the rubble of their former homes, the greater the risk of disease outbreaks,” he said. “Cholera is a potential threat in these situations and we are scaling up our prevention efforts.”
More than 225,000 people are currently sheltering under Red Cross tents and tarpaulins, with tens of thousands more due to receive shelter help in the coming days and weeks. Tools, materials, training in safer building techniques and cash grants will also be distributed to support families as they strive to rebuild.
The Nepal Red Cross Society is working across 14 of the worst-hit districts with specialist teams operating across remote areas and more than 6,500 volunteers.
Volunteer Sarwan Panjiar, 21, drove 12 hours on a motorbike through devastated villages and roads choked with debris to reach Chautara, determined to help as a translator at the Red Cross field hospital. “I couldn’t think of anything else – I had to come,” he said. “These areas desperately need help and, as my house survived, I wanted to do something for the people who had lost everything.
“The patients here are really scared about what they will do when they leave – they have nothing to go back to.”