NEPAL: AN OVERVIEW OF THE DISASTER
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April at 11:56 local time creating large scale damage and many casualties. The epicenter was located 81 km northwest of the Nepali capital Kathmandu in Lamjung District at a depth of 15 km. The earthquake has caused a number of landslides and avalanches.
Strong aftershocks, including a 6.7 magnitude quake on 26 April, continue to threaten the lives of thousands of people and to further damage buildings and infrastructure. Many people are afraid and have slept outside for several consecutive nights, in spite of the falling rain.
According to initial estimations and based on the latest earthquake intensity mapping, over 8 million people are affected in 39 of Nepal’s 75 districts.
Over 2 million people live in the 11 most critically hit districts.1 According to the government and as of 29 April, the earthquake caused 5,006 deaths, most of them in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Lalitpur. Over 10,194 people have been injured. These figures are expected to increase as more areas are reached and information becomes available.
The Central and Western Region, including the Kathmandu Valley districts, are the worst affected.
The full impact of the earthquake in mountainous and hilly areas is still being determined. Dhading, Gorkha, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre, Nuwakot, Dolakha, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Ramechhap are the most affected. In these areas, many families live in fragile and vulnerable homes with outer walls and/or foundations constructed from poor quality materials.
Displacement in urban and rural areas has an immense impact on daily life. Afraid of returning to their homes, many people have stayed in makeshift tents along road sides or in friends and neighbours’ gardens in Kathmandu. Displacement estimates have not been verified but secondary data analysis and earthquake intensity mapping suggest that over 600,000 houses have been damaged and that 2.8 million people have been displaced. The government has identified 16 open spaces in the Kathmandu Valley for the establishment of displacement camps.
Cramped situations and a lack of law and order may exacerbate the existing risks and vulnerabilities faced in particular by women and girls.Strong tremors have damaged infrastructure, including bridges and access roads. Removal of debris will enable access to affected areas so that search and rescue activities can continue and relief supplies can be delivered.
The government estimates that over 70,000 houses have been destroyed. Over 3,000 schools are located in the 11 most severely affected districts. Up to 90 per cent of health facilities in rural areas have been damaged. Hospitals in district capitals, including Kathmandu, are overcrowded and lack medical supplies and capacity. Many temples and heritage sites have collapsed. The more modern structures have withstood the severity of the quakes.
Among the over 8 million affected people are approximately 126,000 pregnant women, 21,000 of whom will need obstetric care in the coming three months. Additionally, approximately 40,000 women are at immedicate risk of sexual and gender based violence. National telecommunications systems and services have been severely damaged throughout the affected area.
Search and rescue teams have assessed collapsed buildings and have saved at least 14 people from the rubble. Teams from over 17 countries have brought people to safety and provided first aid. Food insecurity is rising. The Food Security Cluster estimates that 3.5 million people are in need of food assistance. Of these, 750,000 people live near the epicentre in poor quality housing. Impact on agriculture-based livelihoods and on food security is expected to be extremely high. The next planting season starts in June, by which time farmers have to transplant rice to avoid further food insecurity. This is aggravated by the large loss of lifestock. Malnutrition rates in certain areas of Nepal are among the highest in the world.
Nepal relies on trucking and wells for fresh water. In the aftermath of the quakes transport of water has been interrupted and many wells have been damaged, leading to fears of water borne diseases.
Fuel is running low in many areas. Cars and trucks are lining up at functioning gas stations. Fuel is urgently needed to pump ground water and to maintain services at hospitals and other critical facilities where power outages are frequent. Power is limited throughout the affected area, with most houses and facilities relying on generators.
It is of vital importance to engage with and serve the affected communities. Affected people need to be kept informed about available services and aid and that gender equality and the diversity of affected communities is addressed when engaging the community. Without access to reliable timely, accurate information survivors are unable to make the choices necessary to develop their own survival strategies.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.