Indigenous knowledge in flood risk reduction

 

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Photo credit: DDC Chitwan

Dhani Ram Mahato, 71, lives in Baghauda village that is almost 50 kilometers away by road from the district headquarters of Chitwan. Born and raised in this southeast part of the district, he has seen several rainy seasons and has memories of how he and his Tharu community managed to cope with the floods. When we sat with him and asked to recall the indigenous practices of flood risk mitigation, he grins and shows his interest to share. Nothing could have been more interesting than listening to his narrative of how he and his neighbors built embankments using indigenous knowledge.

More than 50 years ago, the river nearby Mahato’s community was small – both in terms of surface area and depth. Now the river has expanded its width so much that it has ruined nearby fertile lands and left many families displaced. The river has raised its surface with the accumulation of gravel and sand. The national park does not allow the locals to take them out; as a result, the riverbed has gained its height inch by inch every year. During continuous rainfall, the water from the river flows to the low-lying lands and the village gets flooded.

Along with the growth of human settlements, deforestation increased. After the trees were cut down, the soil would break free during heavy rainfall and would get washed away. The river would carry gravel and sand down the stream and would get accumulated along the way. This would result in raised riverbed that would risk flooding into the settlements near the river.

As their old settlement, Mahato and his indigenous community did not want to get displaced. So they adopted a number of flood risk reduction measures. They used locally available bamboo to make a large net-like structure where they would put big stones inside. The bamboo nets were tied to each other along the riverbank, thereby forming a modern spur-like embankment. The tightly fit stones inside the bamboo nets would not easily get washed away during the flooding. This way Mahato and his indigenous Tharu community saved their settlements from floods.

Weaving bamboo nets and gathering big stones is not easy. An alternative approach used by the community was to place long bamboo plants along the riverbank and then cover it with stones and again with bamboo.

Wherever wood was easily available, there was another alternative. Mahato and his community would install (lodge/insert into the ground) parts of trunk/timber along the riverbank at a distance of one foot in two rows. The trunks would then be connected with rectangular, flat wooden boards. The boards and the trunks would form box-like structures that would be filled in with stones. A rigid embankment built this way would prevent the overflow of water into the settlement of Mahato and his community.

In the past decade or so, Mahato has seen modern embankments being built in the riverbanks. Spurs and dikes have displaced the traditional embankments made of bamboo, wood and stone. However, Mahato sees this as a modified version of his indigenous knowledge. Mahato is happy at one particular thing: recalling the past days where the embankments had to be rebuilt or adjusted each year, he says the modern structures are more durable. He appreciates the risk reduction efforts of the local government and I/NGOs. However, he also thinks that there is more to do. If rivers could be straightened to some extent and if a canal system is developed, Mahato says, his community would benefit more.

(Story by Biplav Pradhan)

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Supporting Nepal’s local community mobilizers

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Photo credit: Nepal Scouts

In the immediate aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of April 25, Nepal Scouts mobilized around 2,600 Scout leaders and young Scouts to the quake-affected areas across the country and rescued the lives of over 500 people. From giving first aid to the injured and managing debris to distributing tents, water, and food to the survivors, Scouts demonstrated their skill to be courageous under all difficulties and help people.

“Scouts are known for their resilience against any adverse situation”, says Nepal Scouts Chief Commissioner Rabin Dahal, recalling the commendable role played by the Scouts.

Nepal Scouts has been contributing to the physical, intellectual, social and spiritual development of children, teenagers and young people in Nepal for 62 years. As its tradition to remain under the patronage of  the executive Head of State, Nepal Scouts has Prime Minister Sushil Koirala as its patron.

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Nepal Scouts Chielf Commissioner gives his closing remarks during the final day of the five-day training programme at Kakani International Training Center on 15-19 June 2015.

“Nepal Scouts has been a reliable and selfless contributor to the community in the time of need”, says Rabin, during the closing ceremony of a five-day training of 70 Scouts at Kakani International Training Center, 23 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu. The training was conducted as part of DFID-funded Inter-agency Common Feedback project that aims to collect feedback from the quake-affected communities.

“It is a first-of -its kind training in the history of Scouts”, says Rabin, “We hadn’t partnered earlier with the UN and several humanitarian agencies for a joint programme of the scale like this”.

“We, 70 scouts, are from all the 14 most-affected districts (of the earthquake)”, says Sukripa, a young Scout from Lalitpur district. Having seen firsthand the plights of the quake-affected, Sukripa feels determined that the five-day training, that included orientation on psychological first aid among others, will prove useful when she gets back to her community.

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Sukripa (left) learns how to build a temporary shelter for the quake-hit people by using tarpaulin.

Scouts like Sukripa received training on information provision, tracking rumors, psychological first aid, gender-based violence, data collection, building temporary shelter, substantive equality, and building accountability.

Humanitarian agencies like ACAPS, Internews, World Vision, Save the Children, UNFPA, UN Women, IFRC, and Accountability Lab delivered sessions on their respective fields of expertise.

“The enthusiasm I see among the participants is so amazing”, says ACAPS’s Leonie, who held a session on data collection from quake-affected communities.

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Scout leaders learn how to enter community feedback into a tablet.

On the final day of the five-day training, the participants gave a “very good” overall rating. The trainees will in turn train their peers and Scout units in their respective districts.

“The training aims to strengthen the ability of the Scouts to listen and communicate with communities and document the experience in order to help humanitarian organizations to be better informed directly by the people they work with and serve”, says Stewart Davies, Regional Communicating with Communities Officer of OCHA-Bangkok, who oversaw the five-day training.

(Story and photos by Biplav Pradhan)

Radio’s Resilience

“I listen to Radio Sailung most of the time. I start my day with CIN* news of 6 am and sleep after listening to BBC Nepali Service’s evening programme”, says Nima, a local restaurant owner at Kuri Bazaar, 20 kilometres north-west of Charikot.

Locals of Kuri Bazaar, like Nima, rely on radio for news. Radio has been a good friend of Nima and his neighbors, especially after the earthquake. “Not only do I get to know how many people were killed, injured or affected by the earthquake, but also I hear problems of other quake-hit people like me”, says Nima, standing in front of his damaged house.

While radio has been a convenient mode of communication in the rural villages like Kuri Bazaar, the radio stations that operate from the district headquarter Charikot have a different problem of their own. “We air others’ problems, but very few know that we have problems too!”, shares Ramchandra Giri, Station Manager of the same community radio station Nima of Kuri Bazaar listens to.

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Ramchandra Giri, Station Manager of Radio Sailung, one of the four community radio stations in Dolakha district, stands in front of the tent his radio station is currently operating from.

Ramchandra gives a tour around the damaged building of his radio station. Some equipment have been buried and damaged. There are huge cracks on the building walls. The stairs that led to the broadcasting room of the radio look precarious.

Next to his damaged building is A-one Party Palace, a business that caters to the need of people who like to have wedding parties, birthday parties or official events. The one-storey building of the party venue has not damaged, fortunately. In front of the party venue, there is a little open space. That is where Ramchandra’s radio station is taking a temporary shelter in a DDRC-provided tent.

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Ramchandra’s colleague works inside the tent to broadcast radio programmes.

“Receiving this tent was not that easy. After continuous requests, DDRC provided the tent,” says Ramchandra as he walks around the tent. Pointing at the tarpaulin that covers the top of the tent from outside, Ramchandra adds, “Before we had this tarpaulin, the rainwater would seep into the tent and we had to struggle to protect our radio equipment with blankets. It sometimes frustrated me, asking myself what kind of profession I was with.” He pauses for a while.

“But another part of me kept reminding me of my responsibility to inform people in the time of crisis. As a manager, it was my role to keep the radio going, and I actually did”, says Ramchandra now with a smile in his face.

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Collapsed buildings in Charighyang area of Charikot. It is the same neighborhood where all the four community radio stations are based.

For the locals of Charikot, the 7.3 magnitude earthquake of May 12 was a major earthquake, not the 7.8 earthquake of April 25. With the epicentre just 15 kilometers north-west of Charikot, the May 12 earthquake devasted Charikot’s Charighyang area, where all the four radio stations (Radio Sailung, Bhimeshwor FM, Hamro FM and Kalinchowk FM) are based.

“On top of our loss, our landlords have asked us to remove our radio towers. We have not been able to collect our pre-earthquake advertisement revenues. We are short of staff as many have not come back”, Ramchandra shares the common problems the radio stations in Charikot are facing. “One radio station has removed its tower after the landlord’s pressure. Lets see how long the remaining ones can operate!”

Ramchandra’s Radio Sailung now operates 18 hours a day and broadcasts news seven times a day. It airs radio interviews with government officials, political leaders and social mobilizers. It also visits the most affected areas and records and airs the people’s problems in their own voices. The resilience of radio stations like Radio Sailung has enabled the locals of Dolakha to feel the presence of media even in the aftermath of mega earthquakes.

If we would like to see the earthquake survivors of Kuri Bazaar like Nima listen to the radio for news and information, we also need to address the problems facing the community radio station managers of Charikot like Ramchandra.

*Community Information Network

(Story and photos by Biplav Pradhan. The views expressed here are those of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of NRRC.)

Recovering livelihood after earthquake

View from Kalinchowk Bhagawati temple

View from Kalinchowk Bhagawati temple

At an altitude of almost 3,800 meters lies a popular Hindu temple Kalinchowk Bhagawati in Dolakha district . Visited every week by over 2,000 people before the 7.3 magnitude earthquake of May 12 (the second earthquake), the temple is less than ten kilometers away from the earthquake’s epicenter.

When the earthquake hit on May 12 Tuesday, there were around 500 people, including children, on the top of this 3,800 meters high hill. As the ground started shaking, people screamed so loud that locals of Kuri village, 300 meters below the top, thought many might have been killed. Luckily, however, no one one got killed. Few got injured when they tried to run. 

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Pemba Lama shows the fallen off railings in the temple area.

Pemba Lama, a member of the temple management committee, says, “I am glad that no one died. It was such a panic situation and we were on the top of such a steep, high hill.”

Some railings surrounding the temple area have fallen down the hill and some hang precariously. As the hill overlooks the beautiful village at the base and majestic mountains in the clouds, deep cracks near the temple and landslides in the hill demand a strong heart to look around. The top of the hill is a very thinly housed area with only eight houses made of stones and mud. One of them, resting house for temple visitors, has completely collapsed and others have damaged. Nobody lives there anymore. 

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Kuri bazaar

Kuri Bazaar that lies at the base of Kalinchowk Bhagawati hill has been a top tourist area with 40 hotels and restaurants. Temple visitors as many as 1,500 on Fridays used to pass by Kuri Bazaar. With beautifully crafted wooden and stone houses, Kuri Bazaar was an “eating and sleeping” hub for people coming to visit the temple from other districts. However, after the earthquake Kuri Bazaar has not seen any tourist. Although most buildings in Kuri are still standing, tourism-based business in Kuri has suffered a huge loss with no arrival of tourists. 

“Our house in the other part of (Kalinchowk) VDC has damaged. Our hotel building here (at Kuri) is okay but we have no tourist now. It is a huge financial loss for us”, says Sonam Lama, one of the 40 hotel and restaurant owners who came from another part of the VDC to Kuri Bazaar for business. 

Sonam Lama, one of the 40 hotel and restaurant owners at Kuri, shares his problems.

Sonam Lama, one of the 40 hotel and restaurant owners at Kuri, shares his problems.

“We have received tarps and a sack of rice from VDC office, but what can we do with just that?”, says Sonam with a disappointing note, “We are worried about our livelihood issues”.

Just like Sonam of Kuri Bazaar, people in the earthquake affected areas of Dolakha are deeply concerned about how they would recover their livelihood and get back to pre-earthquake life. 

(Story and photos by Biplav Pradhan. The views expressed here are those of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of NRRC.)

Community responds first in the absence of local government

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Collapsed house of Min Bahadur at Baguwa, Gorkha

Min Bahadur, 67, grandfather of a two-month-old baby, had his three- story building at Baguwa, 20 km northeast of Gorkha Bazar, two hours drive in a bumpy road from Gorkha Bazar.

Like a normal day, he woke up early in the morning of April 25, 2015, and started working in his mill, next to his house. Too busy with his work, he was yet to have his lunch until 11:56, the moment the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal with the epicenter just 40 km north of his location. He felt the huge shake and immediately rushed outside the mill. His main building had already started to collapse. As he heard his wife and daughter-in-law scream in the house, he went inside and took them out with him. His daughter-in-law was carrying a two-month-old baby, grabbing so tight that anybody could easily know she was in a huge panic. Min Bahadur immediately noticed she had injured herself while rushing outside the house.

“It was Saturday, so the health post was closed. I took my daughter-in-law in a jeep that passed by our house. We went to a hospital in Gorkha Bazaar. Luckily there were no severe injuries. We came back the other day”, recalls Min Bahadur.

Min Bahadur admits that nothing could have been done to stop the earthquake since it was a natural hazard. But what disappointed him was the delay in response from the government authority in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. He assumes this might be because of not having locally elected political representatives as local elections have not happened in the last 12 years. He had some hope that an All-Party Committee (A committee that was set up in the absence of elected political representatives. The committee comprised of representatives from all the political parties in the VDC.) would play a role in handling the emergency situation. However, he did not find any leadership role of the All-Party Committee.

He shares his frustration, “It did not live up to our expectations. Nobody from the Committee came to our houses and asked our situation”. He now understood the value of having locally elected representatives and realized the ad-hoc All Party Committee was just ceremonial.

A week later, as relief items swamped to the village from outside, a relief distribution committee was formed in the VDC. The committee had two representatives from each ward of the VDC who would collect information from their respective wards. A member of the relief distribution committee says, “By implementing one-door policy, we track all the incoming relief items, identify the gaps and control duplication of relief items. We are doing what we can in the absence of locally elected representatives.”

Min Bahadur’s family has now received a tarpaulin, a sack of rice, a blanket and a mattress. He takes a long breathe and says. “We could have better managed the situation. We shouldn’t have had to wait for so long to receive the relief items.”

Amidst the difficulty in local governance because of not having locally elected political representatives, the villagers of Baguwa VDC are slowing getting back to their normal life with support from each other in the community.

“We live in a very connected locality here. We helped each other by sharing what we had. I think we saved each other. After the quake, we lived in the shared open space and we cooked together and shared our food. The harmony in our society is what helped us lessen our suffering. We knew we all had suffered, but our culture to help each other in the time of need made us stay strong together despite all the loss”, says Min Bahadur’s wife.

“Lets just not entirely depend on the government. We should do what we can from our side too”, adds Min Bahadur.

(Story and photo by Biplav Pradhan. The views expressed here are those of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of NRRC.)

Stories of the quake injured

28The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April 2015 has killed over 7,600 people and injured over 16,000. Medical Teams International (MTI) has been on the ground in Nepal since 27 April and has provided assistance and conducted rapid needs assessments in seven areas of the most remote and geographically isolated communities in Nepal.

One of the most affected areas and identified as a priority district for health assistance is Dhading District.

In a small village called “Budathum” within Dhading District, Medical Teams International (MTI) personnel met Yadu Kumari, an 82-year old woman who was injured in the quake. Yadu has lived in Budathum for most of her life with her family, who rely upon and make a small income with subsistence farming.

Nepal_Yadu photo_2015When the earthquake began, Yadu was near her rural home, and although terrified, she immediately sought protection. A building nearby her collapsed, and a falling piece of rubble hit and broke her foot. She is grateful that she suffered no further injuries.

Yadu’s village was destroyed, and some of her neighbors were less fortunate than she. There were at least seven deaths. Three of those deaths were fishermen who ran from the water when the earthquake began. As they were getting out of the water they were buried under a massive landslide, and one of Yadu’s neighbors said, “You could hear them moaning from underneath the mud, ‘help us, help us.’”

As the roads were impassable due to landslides, Yadu was taken by foot to the closest health clinic, where her foot was wrapped and splinted. Yadu is now being cared for by her family in Budathum.

Leaving Budathum, MTI came across a family who was seeking help for their 16-year-old boy, who was lying motionless next to a river. An MTI doctor and nurse looked after the child, who was complaining of a severe headache. His family said he had been sleeping down by the river in the sweltering heat.

With his family, the MTI team evacuated the child to the nearest health center across rocky, landslide damaged roads. Throughout the evacuation, the boy chanted over and over about his head being in immense pain. After treatment and rest overnight at the clinic, the boy was beginning to recover, and he and his family were planning to soon return to their village.

The health center was the primary referral center for the health posts located in the most remote locations. The health center, a primary healthcare center (PHC), was seriously damaged by the earthquake and still has no electricity and poor quality water.

Through the rapid needs assessments, the MTI team is finding that the primary health need is access to working health centers, which is severely disrupted due to the earthquake. This is compounded by significant damage to the majority of health facilities and a lack of medical supplies.

As the Nepal earthquake response is shifting towards the restoration of health services, MTI is continuing to assess where most value can be added, including primary health care and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of destroyed health facilities.

(This web article is contributed by Medical Teams International, Nepal. Photos by the contributor.)

National Army respond to quake survivors in Nepal

Kathmandu 059 On Saturday 25 April just before midday, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck Nepal. Its epicenter was located just 81 kilometres northwest of Kathmandu and 68 kilometres east of Pokhara, the country’s two largest cities.

The earthquake caused widespread devastation to lives, homes and infrastructure. More than 7,000 people are reported dead so far and 14,000 injured. People were traumatized as the powerful earthquake brought down buildings and the aftershocks lasted for hours after. Even if homes weren’t destroyed, people fled for fear of aftershocks and opted to sleep outdoors in poor weather conditions rather than return home. To accommodate the numbers of people the Nepalese army mobilized and set up camps in previously identified areas so that people could shelter, receive food and water.

Thousands of people flocked to the camps, where the military had also set up medical centres to deal with those who were injured. People patiently queued to seek medical attention and they appropriate medication was dispensed.

Kathmandu 102The Nepalese military serve as UN peace-keepers in some of the harshest conditions across the world and they know what to do in these situation. “I have served in Congo and responded to the Haitian earthquake,” Colonel Prayog Rana told OCHA. “We are experienced in doing this and I am coordinating with Oxfam and the other non-government organisations to ensure that appropriate toilets are set up and people have access to water.”

The army put out a request on social media for volunteers and were pleased that so many nationals and non-nationals turned up to clear up the litter in the park and then have it removed, improving the appearance of the living area. “We don’t want anybody to leave here sick,” said Colnel Rana “it’s so important that people have good sanitary conditions to minimize any chance of water-borne diseases.”

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake more than 9,000 people set up temporary tents in the park and stayed until they felt safe enough to travel back to their villages on busses provided by the Government.

(This web article is written by Orla Fagan, Regional Public Information Officer, OCHA Bangkok. Photos by the author.)

Treating the Injured After an Earthquake

The impact of a large scale earthquake in the Kathmandu Valley will be devastating. The latest estimates suggest that an 8 magnitude earthquake would kill 100,000 people, injure 200,000 and displace 1.8 million. The response to this crisis will be immense and complex, which is why preparedness and risk reduction is critical.

A key priority in Nepal is the preparation of health facilities for emergency response. With such a large number of injuries expected, immediate health response will be critical to saving lives. Unfortunately, the safety and preparedness levels of public and private health facilities has been limited in Nepal. This is beginning to change with increased focus on health sector preparedness under the lead of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP).

Hospitals are one of the essential institutions that must continue to function when an emergency strikes. The Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium has prioritized hospital safety in recognition of the critical role hospitals will play in saving lives immediately after a disaster. This work is being coordinated by MoHP and the World Health Organization (WHO).  In a broader term, hospital safety entails   structural,  non-structural and functional safety of the hospital buildings, facilities and services

Simply put, structural safety is about making sure the hospital building can withstand an earthquake. While the concept is simple, the execution is complex. Many public and private hospitals are not built according to earthquake safe standards which means they must be retrofitted to improve their performance during earthquake shaking.  However, retrofitting hospitals is very resource intensive exercise and it will be difficult to achieve in absence of  dedicated resource, time and expertise.  Another complicating factor for the retrofitting project is the continuity of service  during retrofitting operations.

The MoHP, WHO and DfID are working to address the issue of structural safety. Currently, a detailed assessment with the retrofit design of priority ten hospitals is underway. The information obtained from this assessment will allow donors to justify investment in hospital retrofitting work. In the meantime, the Government has invested in ensuring Patan Hospital is earthquake resistant.

Non-structural and functional safety of hospital remains equally important. It includes the safety of medical and laboratory equipment, lifelines (oxygen, electricity, water supply) and architectural elements (such as ceilings, windows and doors). These elements are crucial to the daily operation of hospitals and if these are damaged, they would not be able to function and may even cause physical injury to patients and personnel.  Similarly functional elements such as human resource, logistics and medical supplies and utilities, standard operating procedures and mass casualty management plans and procedure etc need to be in place all the times for hospitals to continue its services in an immediate aftermath of disaster.

A consortium of WHO, Handicap International, Oxfam and Save the Children has been implementing an earthquake preparedness project funded by the European Commission (ECHO) to support MoHP in  enhancing non-structural and functional safety of the selected hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley. The Consortium successfully implemented two cycles of 18 months projects and has achieved a considerable progress during the last cycles in term of developing the health emergency policy guidelines, strategies and plans, establishing Health Emergency Operation Center (HEOC), developing training modules on health sector disaster risk management including non-structural assessment and mitigation of key central level referral hospitals such as TUTH, Civil Service, Patan and Bhaktapur hospitals.

In the previous 2 phases of the project, Consortium supported MoHP to develop (1) National Mass Casualty Management Strategy (2) Guideline on the Design of Disaster Resilient Hospital and Health Facilities (3) Emergency Referral Guidelines (4) Guidelines on Roster and Early Deployment Mechanism and (5) Trauma Protocols on Medical, Surgical, Nursing and Rehabilitation Management of Spinal Cord Injuries, Amputation, Open Fracture, Head and Burn Injuries.

Building on this work, the consortium (under the new cycle of ECHO funded project) aims to improve functional capacity of the health system during emergency by establishing a Health Incident Command System (ICS) under the MoHP, strengthening hospital networks comprising public and private health institutions (hub hospitals), integrating disaster preparedness activities in the municipality development plans and conducting awareness activities at the community level.

The scale of the disaster is immense and saving lives will be crucial in the immediate aftermath. This can only be done if public and private health facilities are part of the response effort. The work done now in health sector preparedness will go a long way in saving lives when the disaster does strike.

The EU Parliament Delegation to Nepal visits the EU funded project on health sector crisis preparedness for earthquake in Kathmandu valley

The EU Parliament Delegation to Nepal, led by Ms. Jean Lambert, the Chair, European Parliament Delegation for the relations with South Asia including the members of European Parliament (Mr. Cristian Dan Preda, Mr. Afzal Khan, Mr. Thomas Mann), members of European Parliament General Secretariat (Mr. Philippe Kamaris and Ms. Kristin Arp) and Political Group Advisor Ms. Sabine Meyer, visited the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) and Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) on April 10, 2015.

The Delegation met with the Minister of Health and Population Mr. Khaga Raj Adhikari at MoHP. During the meeting, the Minister thanked the  European delegation “…for supportive collaboration in health sector preparedness in Nepal.” Putting the visit into perspective, the Minister reflected that “the meeting reminds us of the common concern that we all share for the safety and security of life and property in the face to disaster, particularly the destructive ones.” Finally he hoped that “with continued support and collaboration, we will continue to make a difference.”

Mr. Toya Subedi (DIPECHO Coordinator for WHO Consortium) briefed the Delegation on earthquake risk and vulnerability in the Kathmandu Valley and its public health implication. Dr. Guna Raj Lohani (Chief of Curative Service Division/ MoHP) made a presentation on   health sector preparedness initiatives and priorities of MoHP. On the occasion, WHO Representative to Nepal, Dr. Lin Aung, highlighted on the importance of health sector preparedness for country like Nepal and briefed the delegation on the comparative advantage of WHO Consortium for EU supported earthquake preparedness initiatives. The meeting was also attended by the Country Director of Save the Children and acting Country Director of Oxfam.

During the discussion, the EU delegation enquired  about public awareness of earthquake risks, transportation and communications challenges during flash flood and earthquake, and enforcement of building codes for earthquake safety. Chief of Curative Service Division/MoHP and the  representatives from WHO Consortium  answered the queries of the Delegation.

The Delegation also observed Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) at MoHP. HEOC is designed to serve as a high-level command centre in the event of health emergency and it hosts essential resources and data for effective coordination and response during emergencies.

After MoHP, the EU Delegation visited Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) and observed the prepositioning of emergency medical and surgical supplies and non-structural mitigation measures applied in the hospital through EU support following a short presentation by Prof. Dr. Pradeep Vaidhya on the status of hospital preparedness for emergency.

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Honorable Mr. Khaga Raj Adhikari, Minister of Health and Population (right) and Ms. Jean Lambert, Chair, European Parliament Delegation for the relations with South Asia (left).

The EU Parliament Delegation to Nepal, along with the representatives from WHO, DIPECHO, Handicap International, Oxfam and Save the Children, and Hospital Director of TUTH.

The EU Parliament Delegation to Nepal, along with the representatives from WHO, DIPECHO, Handicap International, Oxfam and Save the Children, and Director of Department of IT at TUTH.

Nepal and the WCDRR

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From 14 to 18 March 2015, the global community gathered in Sendai, Japan to agree to the new international framework for disaster risk reduction, known as the Sendai Framework. With DRR a key priority for Nepal, the Sendai Framework represents a milestone achievement to ensure DRR remains on the agenda for countries over the next 15 years. The Nepal Delegation played an important role in shaping this framework – you can watch Nepal’s official statement here.

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His Excellency Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, at the 4th Plenary Meeting of the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction; Sendai, Japan 2015

Nepal had a strong presence at the WCDRR – with both an official delegation leading negotiations on behalf of the Government and partners highlighting the work achieved in Nepal in the past 5 years. The highlighting of work and engagement on DRR discussions was done through a market booth and organized side meetings.

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Dr. Som Lal Subedi, Secretary of Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development of Nepal giving a presentation on DRR mainstreaming in Nepal.

The NRRC supported the Government of Nepal in organizing a regional side meeting on mainstreaming disaster risk reduction. This side meeting brought together representatives from Indonesia, India and Pakistan with Nepal to share their respective experience in building disaster management capacity. In this meeting, the importance of political leadership was highlighted as critical for moving DRR forward. However, in Indonesia, Pakistan and India, this political will was only generated and maintained following major disasters. The case of Nepal is unique because efforts to generate political will, while challenging, is happening without a major disaster to spur action.

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From left to right: Prof. Santosh Kumar, Executive Director of National Institute of Disaster Management, Ministry of Home Affairs of INDIA; Dr. Suprayoga Hadi, Director General of Ministry of Village, Disadvantaged Region and Transmigration of INDONESIA; Dr. Som Lal Subedi, Secretary of Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development of NEPAL; Dr. Ahmed Kamal, Member of National Disaster Management Authority of PAKISTAN.

It was agreed in this side meeting that strengthening risk reduction efforts should include regional and cross-zonal cooperation and information sharing. Countries across the region have experience and knowledge that can be shared to maximize effective approaches in strengthening risk reduction.

Based on this, it was agreed in this side meeting that a workshop and other approaches to regular coordination should be utilized to deepen regional cooperation for DRR. For example, a workshop would bring together representatives from SAARC and 1 South East Asia country to further embed information sharing and strengthen political leadership on DRR issues, using the Sendai Framework as a foundation for discussions.

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Organizers and panelists of the side meeting

In addition, partner organizations from Nepal also organized a variety of side meetings examining many areas of disaster risk reduction. For example, NSET hosted 3 meetings on building codes, school safety and public-private partnerships. These side meetings not only allowed Nepal to showcase its experience in DRR but also to learn from others and identify new partnerships for building on the work being done.

The Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium also managed a market booth for conference participants and the general public. With over 6500 participants and a venue open to the public, the market booth provided an opportunity for the NRRC to highlight key achievements made by the Government of Nepal and partners in strengthening risk reduction. The most popular materials shared with booth visitors were the NRRC Flagship videos and Red Panda PSAs for disaster risk reduction.

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A screenshot of a Red Panda PSA for DRR

In addition to the market booth, the NRRC utilized social media to engage with organizations and individuals (both at the conference and globally). Through Twitter and Facebook, the NRRC was able to communicate with thousands of individuals on what was happening in Sendai.

With the Sendai Framework approved, work in Nepal begins on the next phase of DRR in the country. With other post-2015 agendas on the horizon (Sustainable Development Goals, Climate Change), it will be important to ensure adequate coordination and information sharing across these agreements are in place to maximize impact on the ground.

Stranded: Airport Readiness in Nepal

image credit: Nepali Times

Image credit: Nepali Times

As many of you know, in the first week of March the sole international airport in Nepal (Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu) was closed for 4 days (85 hours). This closure was due to a crash that occurred as Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 skidded off the runway. With no necessary equipment to remove the damaged aircraft and fix the runway, Nepal became isolated from the outside world.

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Image credit: AFP

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in this crash. Unfortunately, more than 80,000 people became stranded. This included at least 5,000 outbound Nepalis who were supposed to board the planes, most of them to the Gulf and Malaysia. Likewise, more than 1500 Nepalis were stranded in airports abroad (Malaysia, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, among others) and were unable to come back to Nepal. While the total economic cost is yet to be determined, airlines alone suffered an estimated $80 million dollars in loss.

Image credit: EPA

Image credit: EPA

This incident highlighted the critical importance of airport preparedness in Nepal especially in the case of a major disaster, such as an earthquake. Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries to earthquake (stands 11th). Kathmandu has been listed as the most at-risk city (ranks number one). The impact of an earthquake in Kathmandu similar to the one that hit Haiti in 2010 would be catastrophic; it will kill up to 200,000 outright, injure 700,000 and render 1.5 million homeless.

What makes the earthquake scenario in Kathmandu worrisome is the issue of access. After a major earthquake, the airport will not be functional – and as last week’s incident demonstrates, the airport will not be able to open for days (or even weeks). This has lifesaving implications in a post-earthquake scenario. If goods and support cannot be received for days or weeks, people affected by the earthquake will suffer even more.

There has been some good work done by the Government and partners in building airport readiness. This includes an Emergency Response Plan and simulations to test readiness levels. The last simulation conducted provided over 40 recommendations on strengthening airport readiness. All of this information can be found here.

But while emergency plans and building capacity is an important step; it is not enough. The crash landing and resulting airport closure highlighted the need to have equipment in place with trained personnel to respond immediately to ensure the airport can function as quickly as possible. Also, it is important to ensure that investments made in improving the airport include issues of earthquake preparedness.

The airport is the first impression for anyone who enters a country – and the impression that Tribhuvan International Airport should leave people is one of safety and reliance. An earthquake ready airport is absolutely critical to ensure Nepal and partners can save lives and respond quickly following an earthquake.