Nepal - Although aid is now reaching communities affected by Nepal’s devastating earthquake, international support must be stepped up to prevent a second tragedy, IOM has warned.
Earthquake survivors salvage what they can from the rubble in Sangachok, Sindhupalchowk district, Nepal. © IOM 2015
The opportunity to deliver critically needed supplies into the most earthquake-devastated areas of Nepal before the onset of the wet season is passing, threatening to turn the current crisis into something much worse.
Over 8,400 people lost their lives in the April 26 earthquake and at least twice that number were injured. An estimated 2.8 million people were displaced and eight million have been affected to varying degrees.
IOM says that the pace of aid needs to be stepped up significantly before meteorological factors compound the crisis.
“We are six weeks away from a monsoon and five months away from winter,” said IOM emergency team leader Brian Kelly, speaking at IOM’s newly opened humanitarian base in Chautara, Sindhupalchowk district, near the epicenter of the 7.8 magnitude quake. A peal of thunder and a few spots of rain underlined his concerns.
He added: “If we miss this window of opportunity, it’s not going to be a humanitarian crisis, it’s going to be a migration crisis. These people do not want to leave where they are. They are very attached to their land and want to rebuild, although they recognize it will take years. The reality is that if they don’t get any assistance, it will be very difficult for them to stay in the many places where the roads are annually washed out for months after the rains come.”
Rubble-strewn streets of Chautara, Sindhupalchowk. © IOM 2015
IOM, which has already facilitated delivery of shelter assistance to more than 5,000 households, is leading the shelter cluster response in Sindhupalchowk district. The most recent government figures estimate that over 284,000 homes have been destroyed and a further 234,000 damaged.
The roads to Sindhupalchowk district, where 90 per cent of houses have been obliterated and half of the 7,500 fatalities recorded to date occurred, is empty of the type of heavy truck traffic one would expect to see ten days into an emergency of this scale, Kelly said.
The arrival of the monsoon will seriously impact the ability of helicopters to delivery supplies into remote mountain communities, where access may be further denied as winter closes in, he added.
Mana Maya was an infant when the 1934 quake struck Sindhupalchowk, Nepal. Now 83, she's homeless again, living in a tent with her granddaughter and 16 of her neighbors. © IOM 2015
The likely consequence will be a mass movement of entire communities, some within the country, others across the border into India. Both scenarios leave large numbers of people vulnerable to exploitation both at home and abroad.
“If we don’t work now to really stabilize these communities, we will witness a major migration crisis in a few months’ time that risks dramatically changing the social topography of large areas of rural Nepal,” said IOM Nepal Chief of Mission Maurizio Busatti. “We are very concerned about the additional stress this will place on communities, the potential to create further poverty and set back the development clock by a decade.”
Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranking 145th out of 187 countries in the UN Human Development Index.
To watch Brian Kelly’s interview, please go to: https://youtu.be/-20_0Txjk-U