Preparing for disasters to prevent monsoon havoc in Nepal

Seetashma Thapa
May 30, 2018 · 5 min read

Every monsoon season, Nepal experiences heavy rainfall that puts thousands of families at risk. These rains cause deaths, displace thousands of people, inundate farm land and destroy basic infrastructure.

Monsoon rains also pose a serious threat to food security as families face uncertainty about where their next meal will come from. Rain can cut communities off from markets, employment and hospitals, leaving them isolated and without the food and income they need to stay healthy. From flooding on the flat plains of the Terai in the south to landslides caused by heavy rains in the mountains, preparing for Nepal’s monsoon season will save and change lives across the country.

Emergency preparedness saves lives

Nepal faced three disasters in the past three years - the earthquakes in 2015, a drought in the Karnali in 2016, and the floods in the Terai in 2017. The frequency of natural disasters has increased globally and emergency preparedness and response is one of the most pressing issues worldwide.

Left to right: Weather extremes — earthquake destruction in Northern Gorkha & flooding in the Terai. Photo: WFP/James Giambrone

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) with support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and in close collaboration with Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs has been working on Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) activities since 2013.

This includes the construction of the Humanitarian Staging Area and Forward Logistics Bases, providing trainings on preparedness and response activities, building a knowledge based preparedness strategy to avoid information gaps during emergency responses, and assisting the Government of Nepal in creating a national & local level preparedness and response strategy.

The HSA played a critical role in the managing and dispatching relief items 48 hours after the earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015. Photo: WFP

Investing in skills supports a faster response to disasters

WFP has been organizing a series of workshops and trainings on EPR so that the humanitarian workers in country are ready to deploy when disasters strike. These trainings include using forklifts and generators, practical and operational emergency logistics and strategic emergency preparedness workshops. WFP does not only invite humanitarian and government counterparts but it also aims at strengthening the response capacity and knowledge of the armed forces, as they are often primary responders.

Left to Right: Armed Police Force and Nepal Army, the first to get deployed after emergencies trained in emergency preparedness and response. Photo: WFP

In May this year, the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) which is led by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MoCIT)and co-led by WFP organized a two-day ETC Operational Training.

Participants learn how to use solar panel to activate communications device in the absence of electricity. Photo: WFP/Bishal Tamang and Seetashma Thapa

Bhawana Shrestha, works with the Nepal Police and participated in a two-day Emergency Telecommunications Operational training along with other government officials, private and public telecommunications staff, internet service provider representatives, officers from internet service providers, Nepal Red Cross, Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force.

Bhawana Shrestha from Nepal Police also participated in the ETC training. Photo: Nepal Police

“When the earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, we were not prepared at all,” says Bhawana. “As a member of the Nepal Police, we play an important role in disaster response. During this training, I learnt how to install, connect and operate essential communications related equipment without electricity for the first time,” she explained.

Communications is the lifeline in times of crises

Communications and information technology is a key element and backbone of any emergency response. When disasters strike, information such as number of casualties, damage and needs must be communicated immediately to save lives and to launch an effective response.

Left to Right: Bikash & Binod learn how to use the Emergency Communications Kit during the training. Photo: WFP/ Bishal Tamang

Bikash Pariyar works as a Technical Officer in World Link, an internet service provider in Dang, the southern plains of Nepal;

“When I was a child, I saw the damage and the havoc floods created at my home,” said Bikash. “During this training, I have learnt to use ETC equipment to share information and create a way for immediate communication,” he added.

Similarly, Binod Thapa, a technician at Subisu, an internet service provider in Banke, that is also frequented by floods said that, “it is important to get the private sector such as us involved because work cannot be done by one force. This ETC training will make local community members capable to provide information quickly and facilitate a speedy response,” he said.

Dipak Thapa along with WFP staff and in collaboration with ETC Cluster providing a hands on training. Photo: WFP/Bishal Tamang

During the training, participants learnt for the first time how to use solar panels, generators, and battery inverts to create power in the absence of electric supply, and communicate information as and when needed.

Building blocks while preparing a National ETC strategy post disasters

Pragya Dhungana, from Nepal Telecom Authority also participated in this training. Reflecting on the training she said, “this training also highlighted the role of the ETC. Stakeholders have now learnt why the ETC should be activated during emergencies and how we can all work together to save lives.”

Left to Right: Pragya Dhunga learns how to operate the VHF and Jyoti Karki asks questions during the ETC training. Photo: WFP/Bishal Tamang

Jyoti Karki, technical officer at the MoCIT and was one of the participants of the ETC training.

“After attending this training, I have realized that MoCIT has an important role in teaching and handling all ICT related equipment’s to our partners” said Jyoti. “The role of our Ministry was not distinguished, but now I see how important it is for us to create an ETC policy pre- and post-disasters, especially since the monsoon is here.”

Training and capacity building are critical elements in creating a state of readiness. The more people and institutions know about emergency plans, priorities and who is doing what, the more lives can be saved by saving time in responding in an efficient and timely manner.

Concluding the ETC Operational Training. Photo: WFP/ Bishal Tamang

Information on WFP EPR Activities in Nepal; https://bit.ly/2IVK25s

Information on ETC: https://www.etcluster.org/about-etc

Donor: DFID

Video on how the HSA can be useful pre- & post emergency: https://bit.ly/2KX47so

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme