Nepal - IOM emergency staff have arrived in Nepal to assist the government and humanitarian partners in responding to Saturday’s (25/4) 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which has caused immense damage and loss of life in the Himalayan nation.
The IOM team in Nepal this morning cited Nepalese government reports of 3,351 deaths and 6,833 injured people. Some 8 million people in 39 districts have been affected, of which over 2 million people live in the 11 severely affected districts. Unconfirmed reports have raised the totals of dead to over 4,000 and injured over 8,000.
Hospitals and health care facilities are overwhelmed. Unique heritage sites and residential buildings have collapsed, trapping many people. Climbers on Mount Everest have been killed and injured in avalanches and landslides.
Multiple aftershocks have continued to cause more damage and chaos. Deaths and damage have been reported in India, Bangladesh and China.
“This is a terrible tragedy for Nepal,” said IOM Nepal Chief of Mission Maurizio Busatti. “We still don’t know the full extent of damage, nor the number of lives lost, but it is inevitable that it will be much higher as we reach towns and villages which are currently inaccessible. We know from aerial and satellite surveillance that whole towns have been flattened. It is an immensely sad time for Nepal and the entire international community needs to unite to ease the country’s pain.”
The first members of IOM’s surge team are now in Kathmandu, to a scene of frantic activity, with dozens of search and rescue teams, military planes and helicopters, and hundreds of responders at the airport. Access is a priority and one of the biggest challenges is that Kathmandu Airport has limited landing capacity, and many flights into the country have been delayed or cancelled.
IOM is working closely with the government, UN and NGOs to coordinate response and particularly to get relief supplies on the ground and out into the affected districts. Three IOM doctors are en route to Kathmandu. IOM will also be providing psychosocial support for survivors.
The UN’s humanitarian cluster system was activated over the weekend, with IOM leading the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster. IOM has also seconded a staff member to the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) team and the Emergency Shelter Cluster.
The massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake – the worst disaster to hit the Himalayan nation in more than 80 years – occurred when a major fault broke, generating powerful seismic waves for about 100 seconds. Multiple aftershocks followed.
The most affected areas are Gorkha and Lamjung Districts, in the Western Region, as well as Sindulpalchowk, Kavre, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Dolakha in the Central Region. Half of Nepal’s 70 districts, with a population of 6.6 million are affected. A national state of emergency has been declared and the Government of Nepal has requested international assistance.
India was one of the first counties to respond, sending planeloads of humanitarian aid and responders. China and European nations are also active, and the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has allocated USD 10 million for the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to cover immediate needs in the shelter, health, water and sanitation, protection and logistics sectors.
Although the quake constitutes a major humanitarian catastrophe, it is not the “big one” that the Nepalese have been dreading for decades. The epicentre was outside the main population centre of Kathmandu. Were a quake to hit underneath the capital, the results would be even more devastating. A magnitude 8.1 quake killed 10,700 people in Nepal and northern India in 1934.
IOM Team Leader Brian Kelly’s first impressions are of massive shelter needs. “We estimate that hundreds of thousands of families will have been made homeless, or will be moving to safe areas for fear of more tremors, spontaneously or as per contingency plans. The priority is to get these people into safe shelter and respond swiftly to their needs,” he said.
“We need to look at immediate food, water supply and health needs,” Kelly continued. “We will be working with the government, the army and our humanitarian partners to ensure we minimize the suffering of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable survivors. We have been working together on earthquake preparedness for many years and are hitting the ground running.”
IOM Director General William Lacy Swing has approved the activation of IOM’s Migration Emergency Funding Mechanism (MEFM), a revolving fund that facilitates immediate response. “Nepal has suffered a lot in recent times and was just beginning to enjoy a period pf peace and stability,” said Ambassador Swing. “We send our condolences and pledge our fullest solidarity with them during this tragedy and through the recovery period.”
In 2011, IOM, as global lead for the CCCM Cluster, working under the guidance of Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs, identified open spaces for humanitarian purposes in the Kathmandu Valley. These are now being set up as camps, with security and water supplies on hand.
Nepal became an IOM Member State in 2006. Since 2008, IOM operations in Nepal have included the resettlement of some 100,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepali origin, mainly to the USA.
For more information please contact IOM Nepal: