Letter from Nepal

On 25 April 2015, Nepal was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Torbjørn Ådnanes and Berit Bye Wilhelmsen are on a one-year FK Norway exchange with our partner Hydro-Consult Engineering Ltd in Kathmandu, and they were both in Nepal when the earthquake struck. Here is their letter about the emergency response.

1. June 2015

By: Torbjørn Ådnanes and Berit Bye Wilhelmsen

For the first few days the situation in Kathmandu was chaotic. We tried to make contact with colleagues whom no-one had heard from, and fortunately we were successful. Multiconsult suggested that we get in touch with Norwegian Church Aid (NCA). In Nepal they collaborate with Danish Church Aid (DCA), who have offices in Kathmandu. We received a warm welcome at the NCA/DCA offices, and were immediately put to work. We attended coordination meetings between the government and the various aid agencies. The various disciplines are divided up into “Clusters”. Within the clusters, resources are allocated to geographic areas, standards are set and information is shared. NCA/DCA are focusing on WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), Shelter and Food.

NCA/DCA work with five local partners who carry out the physical distribution of emergency relief supplies and who act as guides and translators for NCA/DCA in the field. Together, they are responsible for providing more than 100,000 people with shelter, safe water and sanitary services, food and hygiene products.

One of our tasks over the past week has been visiting the affected areas to assess conditions. NCA/DCA are working in four of the worst affected districts – Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Ghorka and Dhading. Together with their team we determine the most critical needs: the state of buildings and other structures; water and sanitation conditions; and access to basic products.

The work on water, sanitation and hygiene includes repairing water systems that were destroyed by the earthquake, water purification, building new latrines, distributing hygiene products and providing information. On one of our trips we went to the district of Ghorka, which was a powerful experience: in many villages, we saw houses and schools that had collapsed. The aim of our visit was to map out where there was the greatest need for WASH measures. Fortunately, Ghorka has relatively good access to water, but the water isn’t purified. In addition to sending engineers, NCA also provides the equipment needed for the projects. This “WASH kit”, created in partnership with Norwegian companies, is designed to meet the acute water, sanitation and hygiene needs of 5,000 people.

We have also worked on the “Shelter kits”, “Hygiene kits” and “Household kits” that need distributing. It is difficult to get hold of everything you need, so the initial focus is on basic supplies like tarpaulins, blankets and water purification tablets. Fortunately the situation isn’t equally bad everywhere, but it is still critical in many rural areas.

In general we are trying to help wherever we can, and the feedback from NCA has been positive. We have been working with NCA/DCA for a week now, and the learning curve has been steep. As well being able to help the affected people here in Nepal, we have also made friends with many aid workers from all over the world. We are grateful for all of the support and interest that we have received from our friends, families and colleagues at Multiconsult.