On the morning of Saturday April 25th, at approximately midday local time, Nepal was rocked by the largest earthquake the country has seen in over 80 years.
The effects of the earthquake could be felt in neighbouring China, India, and Bangladesh, and aftershocks and tremors have been felt ever since. Many Nepalese have spent the last few nights sleeping in tents too afraid to return to what little of their homes remain.
Though aid is beginning to find its way into the country, the death toll continues to rise, and tragically it is unlikely to cease any time soon. At the time of writing it has surpassed the 5,000 figure, and due to the terrain and infrastructure, a full four days after the initial event many of the most rural communities have still not been contacted. The full extent of the damage is unlikely to be seen for many days as government agencies and international organisations struggle to reach the most remote of communities.
The UN estimate that 1.4 million residents are in need of food parcels, and Nepalese government officials state that some half a million tents are needed for those whose homes have been reduced to rubble.
Even before the earthquake struck, Nepal was a country struggling to provide for its people. It ranked as one of the Least Economically Developed countries in the world, had major health issues, and poor education and public services. Many of its people lacked access to clean water, electricity, and even toilets. A colleague of mine recently told me of the pride a villager displayed when she said that the village was free from open defecation. Basic facilities were luxury items for many, and now even these have been destroyed.
The earthquake is a tragedy in both the short and the long term future for Nepal and its people. A tent city has sprung up in Kathmandu, residents are having to burn the bodies of the dead, and supplies of food and water are running low. These are the immediate concerns for the international community, but even beyond that, there is little light at the end of the tunnel.
The progress that the country has made in recent years has suffered a terrible set back. When there was barely enough money to sustain what you had, how can you possibly rebuild it once it has gone? Annually, Nepal received roughly $1 billion in international aid, but it will take significantly more than that to restore what was lost.
The rescue efforts will continue for many more days, and as the hours pass, the chances of finding survivors get slimmer and slimmer. In Kathmandu, the capital, the search and rescue operations press on, despite limited resources and fatigued personnel. Outside of the city, little can be done without the capacity needed to act. Many rural villages closer to the epicentre have yet to receive aid of any kind. Guardian journalist Jason Burke reported that all 71 households in Swarathok have been reduced to rubble. Speaking with a Nepalese colleague of mine earlier today, a similar story was heard. All 55 homes in one of the remote villages in which we work have been destroyed, the community has lost its cattle and its water source, and only received contact from the outside world four days after the earthquake struck.
What is being reported in the news is the situation that we know about. What is of greatest concern is the situation that we do not know about. If buildings collapsed and roads cracked in Kathmandu, roughly 100km from the epicentre, what will be left of those villages and communities who felt the full force of the earthquake?
Dotted along the steep ridges of the Nepalese hills, with huts and shelter made from organic material, perched perilously, overlooking a valley or ravine, what became of the family as the ground began to shake? What has become of them now that their food and water supplies have run out? What will become of them when the monsoon rains bring landslides and flooding?
All international aid organisations have launched emergency appeals to help those who are at risk or are already suffering. The very least we can do, indeed the very least we must do, is to support those organisations as they conduct vital rescue work. You can do so in the following ways: