According to a recent estimate by the United Nations, the earthquake including more than 100 aftershocks that struck Nepal on 25 April, has destroyed more than 600,000 houses. Simavi, together with our local partners NEWAH, FEDWASUN, SmartPaani and SEBAC, is mainly active in the Baglung and Gorkha districts in Nepal. Baglung has been less affected by the disaster, but up to 90% of the houses in Gorkha have been devastated.
A few days prior to the earthquake, Nick Veldwijk, Simavi’s WASH programme officer, visited Gorkha for a work visit. He left the country just two hours before the earthquake hit. Nick: “I tried to contact our partners in Nepal as soon as I arrived in the Netherlands. This was very difficult due to bad communication channels – there was no electricity in most areas and we had no idea of the extent of the situation. Until this moment, our partners are fortunately all right and their head offices in Kathmandu are still standing firm in the ground.”
Contact with local partners
Simavi is in daily contact with our local partners to ensure we stay informed about the situation in Nepal and find out how the people and their families are doing. Even though our Nepali colleagues had to work away from the office for a few days because of the danger of collapse, their offices have not been affected. However, many staff members have lost their homes or the buildings are no longer safe to live in. We remain amazed by the strength of Nepali people and our thoughts are with them.
Emergency relief and response
There has been a global effort to offer condolences, emergency relief and response to Nepal. Shelter remains a priority, as well as food, clean water and sanitation. As Simavi is not an emergency response organisation (i.e. provide in temporary solutions for Internally Displaced People or camps), we are linking local partners to relief organisations. For example, we are investigating the possibility to link with a large Dutch initiative (formed by a range of aid organisations) to provide support for emergency response activities on WASH.
Some of our local partners are very involved in the relief activities in Nepal. For example, NEWAH is closely involved in the WASH cluster, one of the working groups set up by the United Nations, in cooperation with international and local NGOs, to provide a coordinated emergency response. NEWAH is using AKVO Flow to assess the damage. In addition NEWAH interacts with Village Development Committee (VDC) stakeholders to see what needs to be done for each village. In addition, SmartPaani is collaboratively coordinating a successful private initiative (Nepal Rises) with more than 300 volunteers from 23 organisations. They provide remote and heavily affected areas with relief materials including food (so far, over 7000 kg) and purification tablets (over 40,000). They also facilitate the supply chain for Nepal Cyclists, an initiative by cyclists to provide emergency relief in heavy affected areas.
The way forward
Effective emergency response and relief efforts may take years to realise. At the same time, it is important that planning begins for follow up to facilitate the structural (re)habilitation of WASH facilities, including for example toilets in households, and WASH in schools and health facilities.
In order to support the rehabilitation of sustainable WASH facilities, Simavi wants to establish a fund to start damage and needs assessments, and then start the structural rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities. Together with the Dutch WASH Alliance, Simavi will investigate what can be done and how we can best help to contribute to rebuilding Nepal. It is important to note that we must address the situation wherever there is damage, not just in the most heavily affected areas, as no area can afford to be neglected.
You can find more information about the developments of the humanitarian response in Nepal here.