By Mark South, British Red Cross in Kathmandu
In recent weeks, severe monsoon rains have triggered flooding and landslides across Nepal causing widespread devastation. Over 100 lives have been lost and at the peak of the flooding over 200,000 people were affected.
The Nepal Red Cross has been on the ground responding since the rains began and has already reached thousands of people with shelter, food, clean water and other relief materials, but with over 34,000 people remaining homeless, more help is needed. On its part, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal to help 50,000 people rebuild their lives amidst the floodwaters.
“We are seeing multiple emergencies across the country - the rains have triggered landslides in the hills, whilst we are also seeing widespread flooding in the lower lying areas,” says Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, secretary general of the Nepal Red Cross Society.
“This has led to appalling conditions. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes, whilst thousands more cannot get clean water and do not have enough food. We are working to respond to all these needs, but we need international help to meet them.”
Top Bahadur from Barmachi, Khamare village is one of thousands who have no home to return to. "My house was destroyed due to a landslide yesterday. I received a tarpaulin from the Red Cross that I am using as shelter for my family but we need a proper roof. I also received some grain but that will be finished in five days. What am I to do after that”, he exclaims.
On top of the initial destruction caused by the landslides and floods, health officials are now worried about the threat of waterborne diseases as sewage mixes with flood waters and contaminates drinking water sources.
Having already distributed thousands of relief kits, including tarpaulins, blankets and kitchen utensils – an attempt to replace what has been lost with what is vital to survive – the Red Cross is seeking to expand its reach. The focus is on the seven worst flood-affected districts of Banke, Bardiya, Dang, Kailali, Salyan, Siraha and Surkhet in the south west, and landslide-hit Sindhupalchok in the north of the country.
“In some areas local people are saying they have never seen flooding this bad. The geographical patterns are also unusual. We are seeing floods in areas that are never usually affected during the monsoon”, explains Andreas Weissenberg, the IFRC’s operations coordinator in Kathmandu.
As well as providing relief items, the IFRC’s 2.45 million Swiss Franc (Euros 2.0 million, USD 2.7 million) appeal will help the Nepal Red Cross to provide materials that will help almost 4000 families to repair their homes; clean water and improved sanitation will benefit some 10,000 families who will also benefit from hygiene awareness activities to avert the threat of disease.
The Red Cross is planning to build hundreds of emergency toilets to meet the immediate and most basic needs of several thousand people. In a bid to build their long-term resilience, repairs and improvements will be made to improve water supplies across the affected areas to make them less vulnerable to flooding and landslides.