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Nepal’s landscape presents challenge to relief agencies

08 May 2015


Seeking help: a woman prays at a damaged temple

Seeking help: a woman prays at a damaged temple

VILLAGERS in mountainous regions of Nepal are still cut off from aid after an earthquake that "nobody would have guessed would come during their time", the country's most senior Anglican cleric said this week.

"Many waited for many days before medical aids and supplies reached them," said the Dean of the Nepal deanery of the diocese of Singapore in the Church of the Province of South East Asia, the Revd Lewis Lew, on Tuesday. "In fact, a group of people living in the mountains of Dhaging district are still cut off from the outside world. Some members from villages of the higher mountain ranges have trekked for days to the base to seek help. They reported that all the buildings and houses in their villages are completely destroyed. . .

"To reach them, it would take days of trekking on foot and mass mobilisation of resources and manpower to deliver any aid and supplies to about 30,000 villagers in the mountains."

"There has been massive destruction of roads and trails that provide the only access to the remote areas near the epicentre, making relief work nearly impossible," said the chief executive of World Vision Australia, Tim Costello, on Monday. "As time passes, there is a strong likelihood that those who have critical injuries will not survive. Every second counts.

The number of dead stood on Wednesday at more than 7400.

World Vision's regional advocacy and justice for children associate director for South Asia and Pacific, Deepesh Paul Thakur, who is a Nepalese citizen, was in Kathmandu for a regional meeting when the earthquake struck. On Friday, he described fleeing his house with his family and praying outside while hearing people screaming around them. He borrowed a motorcycle to drive around searching for those due to attend the meeting and saw that "the houses and temples I grew up with had crumbled down into the road".

Nepal was a poor country before the disaster struck, he said, and the relief agencies had found that "the complexities of geography are enormous. Nepal is landlocked, and there has been a lot of congestion as we have just one international airport with one runway."

World Vision has reached a tenth of the 100,000 people it plans to help in Nepal eventually.

The regional emergency manager at Christian Aid, Ram Kishan, said on Wednesday that the challenges for agencies had been "acute", but that aid was reaching remote regions.

Christian Aid has been working in Nepal for ten years, and has five partners in the country. Although it has not had an office, it is setting up a team of six Christian Aid staff members to provide logistical, technical, and financial support for at least three months.

The monsoon season, which begins this month, means that agencies are racing against the clock to the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their homes.

The Principal of Nepal Theolo-gical Seminary, Dr Bal Krishna Sharma, said on Wednesday that the country must rebuild "immediately and wisely".

People needed tin sheds, not tents, he said. "People can live in tents when they are provided with ready-to-eat food every day, but that is not the case here in Nepal. They have to cook their own food in firewood; they will have some animals to take care of. They have grains to keep."

The UK executive director of Samaritan's Purse, Simon Barrington, said that rebuilding would take at least five years. "Alleviating poverty builds resilience," he said. "When people get access to capital to build better buildings, that helps the resilience to natural disaster."

He referred to the charity's re-sponse to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, where it helped to build bamboo farms "so they can get back to normal life and normal business".

"Massive financial resources are needed," Mr Lew said. "With the country's current GDP, and the lack of resources, it may take years for all affected by the quake to have their homes restored."

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