NEPAL: Water and Sanitation Are the Priority

Humanitarian aid must arrive soon

Photo credit: Thomas Gonnet for Action Against Hunger

Some of our 12-person emergency team have arrived in Nepal. Their first task is to undertake a quick evaluation of the humanitarian need, so that they can begin to provide water, sanitation services, hygiene kits, and food security and mental health interventions.

11 tons of supplies are ready to go from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, which will be transported according to logistical capacity.

This includes:

  • 9.5 tons of water, sanitation, and hygiene materials like water purification units, chlorine tablets, pumps, bladders, taps, construction materials for toilets, and potties for children.
  • Equipment for spaces dedicated to mothers and children, staffed by specialists in helping people suffering from trauma. Parents will have a calm and comfortable space in order to care for their children. This is indispensable after a disaster, as the health of children depends on it.
  • Tarpaulins and tents to house our emergency offices and an electric generator.

One logistician, one psychologist, and one expert in water, sanitation, and hygiene left Paris yesterday in the plane charted by the Crisis Center, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The airport at Kathmandu is overloaded. Help is needed to strengthen its logistic capacity. Action Against Hunger is now using several different ways of getting in to the devastated area. From India by road, or from Bangladesh by commercial flights, our staff are arriving at Kathmandu whichever way they can, given the difficulties at the airport and the reorganization of air traffic.

Access to first aid materials and international aid professionals is a priority in these first days. It is imperative that the capacity of the airport is strengthened immediately so that all the essential aid can arrive as quickly as possible, particularly water, sanitation, and hygiene materials.

Water and hygiene are the priority. Right now, there is a lack of water in the capital. More than just quantity, it is the quality of the water which will quickly become problematic, and we don’t yet know the extent of the damage to the reservoirs and pipes. There is a huge risk for the survivors. Grouped together in families under a tent, or without shelter, survivors need safe water and sanitation. In the more rural zones, we are still lacking an evaluation.

From my own experience, it is a very similar situation to the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005. Outside the towns, we are talking about a huge rural and mountainous region which has been affected. We don’t yet have reports from there because of the lack of access and because communications are down. It is certain, however, that there is considerable damage,” said Vincent Taillandier, Director of Operations for Action Against Hunger in France.

The isolated rural areas must receive humanitarian help as soon as possible. We must not forget that 80 percent of the Nepalese population lives and works in rural areas. This is where the majority of victims are still waiting for help.

Given that they are smaller and more simply constructed, we hope that when the houses collapse in villages and rural areas, we will see less deaths than in the more built-up towns. But the situation for rural Nepalese people is not easy. Without their homes, their food supplies and with no access to water, an earthquake of this size has without a doubt made them very vulnerable. As was the case in Pakistan, deployment of aid to these people will be long and difficult, and will require helicopters as well as more traditional means, including transportation by donkey,” said Taillandier.

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