From Nepal, Islamic Relief’s Fadi Itani outlines the challenges to aid agencies and reports on the devastation – and heartening resilience – he has encountered so far.
After travelling through the night, I have at last arrived in Kathmandu.
Though the hotels are packed with aid workers, my taxi driver tells me that the city is quiet – it is no longer the bustling capital he knew. It is evening here, but the darkness cannot hide the devastation all around. It seems nowhere in the city escaped unscathed: the rubble of ruined homes litter every street I see.
It must be much worse in communities outside the Kathmandu Valley. Many villages have been cut off by the disaster and are now accessible only by air. There are not enough helicopters, and delivery trucks are in short supply as drivers have returned home to help their families. The country needs more aid and more support to get that aid to where it is badly needed.
Though logistics is an enormous challenge – the small airport is ill-equipped to cope with the volume of aid and aircraft arriving – we are acutely aware of the need to speed up the aid operation even more. We must reach vulnerable people before the monsoon season begins, as this will make access an even bigger challenge than it already is.
Islamic Relief’s emergency team has already distributed food to families who have lost everything in the 7.8-magnitude quake. In Sindhupal Chowk district, we provided 500 foodpacks containing staples such as rice, cooking oil, noodles and a box of matches, to last affected families around a week. According to UN estimates, over three million people in Nepal currently need food assistance. Shelter and water are other top priorities for those that have lost everything.
Yet despite the serious challenges, the Nepali people I have met have filled me with hope. Impressively resilient, already they are trying to get on with their lives as best they can – whilst remembering the more than 6,800 people now known to have died.
Sadly, this grim toll is expected to rise further in the coming days and weeks as the full extent of the devastation emerges. The chances of retrieving any other survivors now are now extremely slim, the government has warned.
It is already Nepal’s deadliest earthquake in 80 years. One week since the violent tremor, bodies still lie under the rubble. Families still sleep out in the open. Hospitals are still struggling to cope with the huge demand on their facilities and supplies. The people of this country need assistance, and they need it now.