CHRISTIAN agencies are among those racing against the clock to
help victims of the worst earthquake in Nepal in 80 years.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck between the capital
Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara on Saturday. The number of
reported deaths - 3726 at the time of writing - is expected to
rise. The worst-affected areas are inaccessible, and are yet to be
reached by rescue teams.
More than 6300 people are believed to have been injured and
almost a quarter of the population - 6.6 million people - has been
The Nepalese government has described it as the worst earthquake
since 1934, when 8600 people died.
"We are lacking proper resources and equipments to deal with the
rescue," a police spokesman told The Guardian. "We are
trying our best, though. We don't have enough cranes to dig out
rapidly in all places, so it's taking time to recover the
Christian organisations on the ground are providing humanitarian
assistance, and appealing for donations.
Before the earthquake struck, World Vision had identified Nepal
as "very vulnerable" to earthquakes, and had been implementing
"earthquake-preparedness training" for communities, and workshops
for schools, to help reduce the impact of a future earthquake. The
agency had reached about 65,000 people in two districts.
In response to Saturday's tremor, World Vision is now planning
to provide aid to 100,000 people, including first-aid kits,
sleeping mats, blankets and jerry cans, and temporary shelter. It
will establish six "child-friendly spaces" so children have a safe
place to play.
The International Nepal Fellowship, a Tearfund partner, has set
up camp on the basketball court of the Kathmandu International
Study Centre, and has sent a team of medical specialists to a
relief camp in Ghorka, one of the worst-affected regions.
The Fellowship reports that families, especially children, are
becoming "increasingly traumatised and fearful of tremors". A
series of aftershocks measuring up to 6.8 in magnitude means that
people have been unable to shelter in buildings, and thousands are
living out in the open.
Christian Aid has already sent £50,000 to support the
humanitarian effort. Its partners on the ground include Lutheran
World Foundation Nepal, which will help coordinate emergency
supplies at a government-run camp, due to start providing temporary
shelter. A local organisation, PGVS, will be distributing 100,000
sets of water purification
"Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the region, and has
one of the least capacities to deal with an emergency of this
scale," Christian Aid's regional emergency manager of South Asia,
Ram Kishan, based in Delhi, said on Sunday.
"Medical services and hospitals are facing an immense strain at
the moment. In Kathmandu Valley, hospitals are overcrowded, running
out of room for storing corpses, and also running short of
emergency supplies. . .
"The earthquake epicentres - mainly Gorkha, Makwanpur and
Lamjung - are still not accessible. Those affected will have
immediate and long-term needs emerging in the coming days. The most
pressing need at the moment is for food, water supplies,
medication, blankets, hygiene kits and other essentials."
Other agencies highlighted the lack of communication with
Nepal's more remote regions.
"With power supplies down, there's still virtually no news from
remote villages near the epicentre, but the damage is likely to be
extreme," Matthew Carter, head of the humanitarian department at
CAFOD, said on Monday.
The Oxfam country director in Nepal, Cecilia Keizer, said: "We
are managing to reach out to people in Kathmandu; but it is
extremely difficult to provide support on a larger scale to the
most affected areas. A lot of the main roads have been damaged. . .
At the moment, all the death-count reports are coming from
Kathmandu Valley. Sadly, I fear that this is only the
It was not untli Sunday that the Revd Gabriel Jens and his
wife, working for Serving In Mission in Kathmandu, was able to
email friends to let them know that they were safe. Mr Jens,
originally from New Zealand, wrote that the experience had
been "terrifying" but that "the army and police and medical
personnel have responded well".
On Sunday, the Department for International Development
announced that a team of more than 60 search-and-rescue responders
and medical experts has been sent from the UK. They will take with
them more than 11 tonnes of kit, including torches, axes, rope,
search cameras, stretchers, and tents. Funding of £5 million has
also been announced. About 200 Britons had been helped by the
British Embassy, the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said on
Sunday. There are no reports yet that any British nationals have
On Tuesday, Christian Aid published an account by the brother of
one of its employees. Nicholas Roxburgh, a 26-year-old Ph.D.
student from Ormskirk, Lancashire, exploring water-system
management in rural Nepal, was in Kathmandu when the earthquake
"While much of the media attention has focused on the capital
city and on Everest, I fear for those living in these more isolated
areas," he wrote. "Communications to these remote rural regions are
poor, but I understand that there have been landslips. Access to
these areas is tricky, and I can only imagine the urgent needs they
must be facing now.
"For this country, the immediate need is clear - shelter, food
and water, along with support that will help rebuild this beautiful