Thursday, May 7, 2015

World Red Cross Day: Nepal 2015

by Ryan Wilcox, volunteer contributor

The numbers are simply staggering.

As of this writing, over 7,300 people have lost their lives to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated Nepal’s capital city of Katmandu. The shocks were felt in Pakistan, over 800 miles away. It even triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest; located just 140 miles east of the earthquake’s epicenter, at Barpak, Nepal.

Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries, and is struggling to recover.

The alpine terrain makes the job of getting relief supplies to victims difficult. The aftershocks from the earthquake created landslides that block roads to remote villages, which were the hardest hit. The most affected areas, such as Barpak in the Western Region, are accessible only on foot.

The people of Nepal face many challenges, but rebuilding their homes might be the biggest. Although relief agencies are working to provide temporary shelters, many victims of the earthquake remain homeless.

Finding Hope

Although the earthquake affected some eight million people, and 2.8 million were displaced, stories of resilience have started to emerge.

In many villages, people are helping their neighbors in the wake of the disaster. This includes taking part in search and rescue efforts. Sonies Awal, a 5-month-old baby, was pulled from the rubble, surviving 22 hours under his collapsed home. The photo of the rescue has become a symbol of new life.

An International Response

In times of international disaster, the American Red Cross works in partnership with Red Cross societies, and relief agencies, from around the world.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, takes the lead in coordinating international relief efforts, and bringing together resources to support victims of disaster. The Nepal Red Cross Society is in the field with 1,500 volunteers and 300 staff. They are working to provide relief items, search and rescue, first aid and temporary shelter.

The Nepal Red Cross is joined on the ground by Red Cross societies from Canada, Hong Kong, the Philippines, the Netherlands and even Finland. The American Red Cross has pledged an initial $1 million, and has sent disaster specialists to support the relief effort. 

In addition, the IFRC is releasing $33.4 million from the Disaster Response Emergency Fund to support food, shelter, water, and other vital services. The fund was established in 1985 to ensure that Red Cross societies around the world had immediate funding for emergency response in the event of a disaster.

There are many charities and NGOs on the ground, and governments across the globe have pledged aid for Nepal relief. In all, more than 30 aid organizations are active in Nepal, and 400 tons of aid is being sent.

Digital Response

In the immediate aftermath, digital tools are supporting the relief effort.

In partnership with the Humanitarian OneStreetMap team, Red Cross volunteers are digitally mapping Nepal’s affected area, using technology provided by the State Department’s MapGive program.

In the days following a disaster, maps are very important to emergency responders. In this case, they provide an accurate damage assessment, and a clear picture of Nepal’s terrain in difficult-to-reach villages. This gives aid workers on the ground maps that reflect current road conditions.

The Red Cross has set up a Restoring Family Links website specifically for the Nepal earthquake. Restoring Family Links is dedicated to reuniting people missing in times of conflict or disaster with their families.

The process starts with online tracing, which gives the staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross information to be submitted to the authorities. 

How You Can Help

The American Red Cross needs your help to support victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal. The relief that has been committed is just a start.

Map: You can visit to help map the affected area of Nepal. No experience is necessary.

Donate: Please contact your local Red Cross chapter, or click here to help Nepal.

Share: Spread the word about relief efforts online. Find Red Cross DFW on Facebook and Twitter.


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