By Norah Mansour –
The United Nations made a “flash appeal” on April 29 for more than $400 million over the next three months to help a devastated Nepal recover from the massive earthquake that struck on April 25, 2015. A second large earthquake hit the region on May 12th resulting in additional casualties and injuries.
Gul Siddiqi, the Phoenix representative of Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD), a non-profit relief organization based in California, said that the devastation in Nepal is staggering but that HHRD is doing what it can to provide immediate assistance. “[HHRD] has a qualified medical team, including Physiotherapists and an Orthopedic Surgeon from Pakistan [who were] dispatched immediately and [are] helping patients who have suffered injuries and devastation of this disaste,” said Siddiqi in a statement. “HHRD’s Emergency Relief Team is on the ground providing necessary assistance in hospitals and villages across the region.”
Siddiqi is urging members of the local community to contribute whatever they can to help the efforts. “The immediate need in Nepal is instead for medicines, hygiene kits and food anyway, so we are not focusing on clothing for now. Those items are being purchased directly by our HH Emergency Response Team. If the funds are there, the work will not stop,” Siddiqi said.
Siddiqi said that the HHRD website (http://hhrd.org/) has more information on how local community members can donate for the cause.
More than 8,000 people have died as of May 11, and the death toll is expected to rise as a result of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The landslides following the earthquake have only compounded the problem, with Nepalese officials urgently requesting more helicopters to bring relief and lift victims out of the rubble. Yet aid workers have complained that helicopters have improper landing sites and that roads into areas such as Kathmandu have been destroyed.
The implications of the earthquake extend well into the future as Nepal enters its rice-harvesting season, which has been destroyed by the earthquake due to lost seed stock. Nepal’s farming community, according to the United Nations, is made up of 27 million people. Their inability to harvest translates to Nepal’s staple food, rice, being unavailable late into 2016. In turn its tourism industry, accounting for nearly 10% of its economy, with Mt. Everest at its center, shared in the tragedy after the earthquake triggered avalanches.
The relief and rescue work on the ground is facing its own complications as a result of panic and unassigned volunteers. Government officials have called it a logistical disaster. While it has been reported that relief workers from as far as France and China have wandered around without specific assignments, many have pointed to a lack of preparation and resources to address such a massive disaster. Some Nepalese districts have even called for mass cremations as a solution to the unclaimed, deteriorating bodies. Meanwhile, in Kathmandu hospital workers are not finding the refrigerator space for unclaimed bodies.
The Nepali government is issuing the equivalent of $1,000 USD for each individual who passed away to their family, as well as an additional $400 for funeral costs. The UN has reported more than 130,000 homes destroyed.