Relief Efforts in Nepal Face Logistical Challenges

Relief Efforts in Nepal Face Logistical Challenges

With the death toll from the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 still climbing, pledges of aid have doubled and aid agencies are beginning to reach survivors in remote areas near the quake's epicenter.

As of April 29, bilateral and multilateral commitments compiled by the United Nations Financial Tracking Service totaled more than $22 million, with another $48.3 million in as-yet-uncommitted pledges, including $15 million through the United Nations' Central Emergency Response Fund. According to the UN, 8.1 million people — more than a quarter of the Nepalese population — have been affected by the disaster and 1.4 million survivors are in immediate need of food assistance. However, unpaved roads, landslides from aftershocks, and heavy rains have made many of the worst-hit villages inaccessible by land. In response, the World Food Programme has begun to airlift emergency food and medical supplies, field hospitals, and aid workers into hard-to-reach areas.

"More helicopters, more personnel, and certainly more relief supplies, including medical teams, shelter, tents, water and sanitation, and food, are obviously needed," WFP's Geoff Pinnock, who is coordinating the flights, told the Associated Press. WFP also is providing logistics, telecommunications, and air transport support for the entire aid operation in Nepal, which the agency estimates will cost $34 million over the next three months.

Direct donations to the relief effort from corporations and philanthropic and religious organizations include $1 million each from Google and Microsoft; $700,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Oxfam America, which is working to provide clean water and sanitation materials to some 350,000 survivors of the quake; and grants totaling $500,000 from the Ford Foundation to Save the Children, the Asia Foundation, and the Tewa Foundation. In addition, the American Red Cross has committed an initial $1 million to relief operations led by the Nepal Red Cross and is working to mobilize disaster specialists, provide remote mapping and information management support, and help reunite families.

Meanwhile, the Nepali government has informed international aid agencies that it has enough search-and-rescue teams, Reuters reports. Teams already on the ground in Kathmandu noted that operations would inevitably shift from rescue to relief, while some complained of a lack of coordination. "When we arrived here yesterday there was absolutely no coordination," said Huijbrechts Marcel, a member of the Dutch Urban Search and Rescue team, which sought but received no information from local authorities about how to divide up the city with other teams or identify sites outside Kathmandu. "There was only a reception where we could register and take permission to set up our base — nothing else."

"Airport Bottleneck and Fuel Shortages Hampering Aid Efforts in Nepal." Oxfam America Press Release 04/29/2015. "Ford Foundation Provides $500k for Immediate Relief and Longer-Term Recovery in Wake of Disaster in Nepal." Ford Foundation Press Release 04/29/2015. Katy Daigle. "Nepal Earthquake Death Toll Tops 5,000 As Aid Reaches Epicenter Area." Associated Press 04/29/2015. "NEPAL - Earthquake - April 2015 Table A: Total Funding and Outstanding Pledges as of 29 April 2015." United Nations Office of for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Financial Tracking Service 04/29/2015. Ross Adkin, Andrew R.C. Marshall. "Nepal Says No More Foreign Rescue Teams Needed in Quake Search." Reuters 04/28/2015. "Red Cross Committing $1,000,000 to Response in Nepal." American Red Cross Press Release 04/28/2015. "UN Allocates $15 Million in Emergency Funds for Nepal Earthquake Response." United Nations Press Release 04/28/2015.