UPDATE on Nepal Earthquakes: How Can I Help?

Photo courtesy of Accountability Lab

This post updates our original guidance posted 3 days after the April 25 earthquake, as well as an update issued last week. It synthesizes information gathered from our network of nonprofits, NGOs, funding organizations, intermediaries, and colleagues in or with direct connections to Nepal, as well as those with expertise in disaster relief. Please see the bottom of the post for key sources used. We continue to monitor the situation in Nepal and will update our guidance as the situation evolves.

Nepal was hit with a second major earthquake on Tuesday, May 12th, hard on the heels of the April 25th quake that killed over 8,200 and injured thousands more.  Measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale, this second earthquake occurred about 50 miles east of Kathmandu and has claimed 125 lives, in addition to injuring approximately 2,000 more.  These numbers are still preliminary, however, as many remote villages remain inaccessible even from the April 25th earthquake.

The second earthquake and continuing aftershocks have shattered nerves, restarted the clock on targeted search and rescue missions, and complicated ongoing intermediate relief and short term recovery efforts.  A key message we are hearing from our sources is that many organizations soliciting funds do not have sufficient capacity on the ground to provide needed help.  In this post, we first describe the key needs on the ground and then provide an updated list of nonprofits working in Nepal that appear well positioned to address these needs.

What are key needs on the ground?

Transport:  Because of avalanches, landslides, and scattered debris, helicopters are virtually the only way to access survivors, evacuate the injured, and provide food, water, and shelter-related supplies in many of the remote villages affected by both earthquakes.  Even worse, some of the hardest hit areas which are currently not accessible by road because of rubble have no possible helicopter landing sites. The Nepali government currently has access to approximately 30 helicopters (some on loan from India, the U.S. and other nations).  In order to get supplies to those that need them most, organizations need to be working in close coordination with the Nepali government on air delivery, have access to their own helicopters, or have an extensive network of local contacts who can literally walk supplies into affected villages.

Shelter and Safety: The April 25th earthquake destroyed close to 500,000 homes and damaged over 250,000 more, and the May 12th earthquake brought down or made unsafe additional buildings. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates the number of displaced people to be 2.8 million.  This number is likely to climb in the wake of the second earthquake.  Shelter-related supplies including tarpaulins, tin roofs, tents, blankets, repair tools, and other non-food items (NFIs), as well as their coordinated distribution, are needed.

Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): According to UNOCHA, the number of ‘water affected’ are estimated to be between 660,000 to 1.3 million people and those who require sanitation services are between 850,000 and 1.7 million people. In particular, remote areas continue to be difficult to reach, and there are concerns of water contamination due to the lack of sanitation and access to clean water.

Food and Nutrition: It is estimated that 3.5 million people are in need of food assistance, particularly those in the more remote and hardest hit areas of the country. HEB (High Energy Biscuits), nutrition powders, and other food supplies are still needed.  Also of concern are access to labor, seeds, and other agricultural inputs required for Nepal’s upcoming planting season:  without these inputs, the entire country will suffer food shortages next year.

Medical Care: There were over 17,000 injured survivors of the April 25th earthquake, and there are already upwards of 2,000 from the May 12th quake.  Twenty six hospitals and more than 900 smaller health facilities have sustained damage, so in addition to trauma care, the inability to provide regular, primary care services is of concern. There is also rising concern over the potential of measles given the number of people temporarily sheltered in close quarters, and the fact that 1 in 10 Nepalese children is not vaccinated. Cholera is also a concern given the threat of contaminated water supplies. Hospital and maternity tents are needed in all affected districts; orthopedic equipment and supplies are needed throughout the Kathmandu Valley.

Special Needs of Vulnerable Populations: Women, children, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable in disasters. In Nepal, concerns include the loss of livelihoods for the over 300,000 female-headed households in the affected districts, human trafficking across porous borders, and pregnancy-related issues that can’t be addressed as hospitals are overwhelmed providing trauma care. Additionally, almost 1 million children can’t return to school and won’t have access to education as thousands of classrooms were destroyed.  In the immediate period following emergencies, the physical safety and psychological health of children are paramount.

How can you address these needs? 

Effective disaster response requires coordinated action with the government and the contributions of two types of NGOs/nonprofits:

  1. Large international organizations with global supply chains and disaster expertise

Coordination of relief efforts among the large international organizations and with the Nepali Government is being done through  a cluster system headed by the UN and specialized UN agencies, such as UNICEF.  Clusters are groups of humanitarian organizations (UN and non-UN) working in the main sectors of humanitarian relief (e.g. shelter, health, nutrition, etc.). They create partnerships between the large international humanitarian organizations, national and local authorities, and civil society, and provide a clear point of contact and accountability for adequate and appropriate assistance.  For a list of the clusters in Nepal, click here.

When giving to large international organizations, donors may wish to check if their funds are specifically earmarked for earthquake relief in Nepal; otherwise funds may go to other priorities elsewhere. 

Some large international organizations with current capacity on the ground and who are working within the Nepal cluster system include Oxfam, World Vision, Save the Children, World Food ProgrammeInternational Medical Corps, and Medecins San Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders.

  1. Local, often smaller, organizations who have detailed indigenous knowledge and networks that position them to efficiently provide help to some of the more vulnerable populations

Below is a select list of local organizations to consider supporting. All are active on the ground in Nepal and bring the kind of capacity that is needed now.

Nepal Red Cross Society has mobilized volunteers to deliver tarpaulins, hygiene kits, blankets and other emergency shelter supplies to earthquake affected populations across 51 districts in Nepal.  Note:  the Nepal Red Cross appears to be much better positioned to help at the present time than either the International or American Red Cross. 

Katmandu Living Labs is part of a global crowd-sourcing effort to accurately map Nepal since the earthquake.  They also have an online platform for people to report where they are and what they need. Such information is critical to effective coordination of disaster response.

Bibeksheel Nepali, a local youth-led political movement that has members in all affected districts, and has been mobilizing volunteers to deliver supplies, help clear debris, locate relatives, give blood, etc.

Friends Service Council Nepal has over 20 years of experience in disaster risk management and has been coordinating with other agencies to mobilize volunteers in delivering food and other needed emergency supplies.

Maiti Nepal has been working in Nepal for over 20 years working to protect Nepali girls and women from domestic violence, human trafficking, child labor, and other forms of exploitation.  The organization has increased its monitoring operations on the border with India and has deployed teams to inspect camps and shelters to ensure that women and children are living in a safe environment.

Funds to Address Intermediate and Longer term Needs

Finally, although giving in disaster situations tends to decline after the first few weeks, often funders can have the biggest impact by paying attention long after the initial headlines fade.  With this in mind, several organizations, including the Center for Disaster PhilanthropyGeneva Global, and Global Giving have set up pooled funds, which can channel funds to local grantees once medium and longer term needs have become clearer.

Sources: May 13-14 direct communications with Accountability Lab, the Disaster Accountability Project, and World Vision and our synthesis of the following websites including Humanitarian Data Exchange, Humanitarian Response, The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the United Nations Nepal Information Platform.