On 25 April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal causing severe destruction in 14 out of the 75 districts in the country. Two weeks later, on 12 May, another quake of 7.3 magnitude hit, worsening the humanitarian situation. A total of 8,891 people were confirmed dead, 605,254 houses destroyed and 288,255 houses damaged. During the height of the emergency, some 188,900 people were temporarily displaced.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the Government of Nepal launched a large scale relief operation with support from humanitarian partners. Over 100 international search and rescue and medical teams arrived in Nepal within 24 hours. Local communities, volunteers, youth groups, the private sector and neighbouring countries joined the effort. As the earthquakes affected predominantly remote mountain villages, rescue and humanitarian operations took place in extremely challenging terrain. More than 450 aid organisations responded to the emergency.
Nepal Earthquake Flash Appeal
On 29 April, the Humanitarian Country Team launched a Flash Appeal to provide critical life-saving services to millions of people affected by the earthquake. One month later, the Nepal Earthquake Flash Appeal was revised to $422 million in order to meet the protection and humanitarian needs of 2.8 million people. The duration of the appeal was extended to 30 September to take into account the effects of the monsoon season and to align with the reconstruction plans of national authorities. Analysis and planning to inform priorities was based on available damage reports and secondary data.
As of 30 September, a total of $241 million was contributed against the appeal (57 percent funded) including $18 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund. Globally, Nepal is one of the most well-funded appeals this year. Outside of the appeal, an additional $232 million was provided for the response. The majority of donations were given by private individuals and organisations. To complement the contributions, aid agencies also mobilised resources from their own internal funding systems.
To address the reconstruction and recovery needs identified in the Post Disaster Needs Assessment, on 25 June, the Government of Nepal hosted the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction where international partners pledged $4.4 billion in grants and loans for reconstruction of the affected areas.
Implementation of large scale recovery projects was expected to begin by the fourth quarter of the year.
Summary of the humanitarian response
The earthquake response took place in a rugged and largely inaccessible geographical operating environment. Hundreds of villages destroyed by the earthquakes could be reached only by helicopter or on foot, often days away from the nearest road. Monsoon rains from June to September made most of the mountain passes inaccessible due to multiple landslides, while low cloud cover suspended almost all air operations. This left only two windows for full-fledged humanitarian aid operations – between early May and mid-June and from mid-September until early December – with the latter falling outside of the timeframe of the Flash Appeal.
Despite these extremely challenging conditions, humanitarian partners in close collaboration with national authorities were able to achieve most immediate and life-saving targets and priorities in the appeal.
Remaining humanitarian needs and hazard risks
Humanitarian assistance directly reached 3.7 million people in the 14 severely affected districts. The monsoon season from June to September significantly constrained access to remote villages. Downscaling of air and land transport during the monsoon contributed to backlog of relief items. Partners continue to distribute remaining supplies to ensure that recovery and resilience objectives of the Flash Appeal are met. Fuel shortage, beginning on 26 September, however, has further delayed operations which will continue beyond the duration of the appeal.
Humanitarian agencies are redoubling efforts to provide additional shelter and non-food items to earthquakeaffected families before the onset of winter. CGI sheets, durable shelter materials, tools and fixings urgently need to be delivered. It is estimated that 81,000 households require additional winterisation assistance including blankets, kitchen stoves, and weatherproofing materials. Technical assistance and training in improving temporary shelters, housing reconstruction and safe rubble removal have been rolled out. 1 Affected villages are in need of continued sanitation interventions, particularly toilet reconstruction, if successes in mitigating disease outbreaks is to be sustained. Many of the affected districts were almost entirely Open Defecation Free before the earthquakes, and require rapid repair and protection of water sources.
As of 15 September, a total of 120 sites continue to host 11,700 households (58,690 people) in 13 districts. Return for displaced families is hampered by destruction of homes, loss of livelihoods and necessity to relocate mountainous settlements due to active landslides. All effort should be made to provide these families with sustainable solutions and alternative housing before the onset of winter and that support services are in place to facilitate safe and voluntary return.
Large scale reconstruction of houses, infrastructure and public services, including schools and health centres is yet to start. A total of 765 health facilities need to be reconstructed – basic resources to provide essential health care services, including immunisation, communicable disease management and rehabilitation of patients wounded in the disaster is needed. Temporary Learning Centres need to be retrofitted to ensure that school children are able to continue learning during the winter.
Transition from humanitarian to recovery response
To coordinate the large scale operation at the field level, three humanitarian hubs were established in Gorkha (Gorkha District) and Chautara (Sindhupalchowk District). Following the 12 May earthquake, an additional hub was established in Charikot (Dolakha District). With the vast geographical area affected by the earthquake and distinct needs in each of the 14 severely hit districts, dedicated national coordinators were deployed to support local authorities. The field hubs phased down operations on 30 September and humanitarian coordination functions have been handed over to district authorities supported by agencies with continuing programmes.
Nine logistics hubs were strategically established across the districts to facilitate distribution of relief goods to remote areas. By the end of the Flash Appeal, all affected Village Development Committees were provided with assistance.
Of the 11 humanitarian clusters for the earthquake, 10 will continue response activities until December with varying timelines for transition. The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster was deactivated on 30 September as national telecommunication networks have been restored. Deployment of emergency telecommunications equipment was critical during the initial phase of the emergency and supported over 1,550 emergency responders.
From October to December, humanitarian operations will be gradually integrated into recovery and reconstruction plans and coordination mechanisms of government line ministries and to pre-earthquake arrangements. Partners are currently working to build on the existing district level coordination arrangements through the establishment of Early Recovery Networks at the sub-national level.
At the national level, efforts are underway to hand over coordination tools and services to pre-earthquake incountry actors and preparations to outline specific coordination arrangements after the departure of international responders. Building on lessons learned from the earthquakes, response preparedness activities are also being rolled out to support authorities to enhance existing capacity to respond to future disasters.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.