The 25th June will mark two months since the first earthquake struck the Nepalese district of Lamjung, around 110 miles west of the capital Kathmandu. Over 8,000 people have been killed in the disaster, with thousands more suffering serious injuries and seeing their homes destroyed.
Now that the initial relief-efforts have begun to subside, the reconstruction process in the country has begun and RedR staff have been working hand-in-hand with local communities, NGOs and the Nepalese government to support them as they work to rebuild their lives.
Providing essential technical support
One of the major elements of RedR’s response to the disaster has been to provide technical support to local organisations, communities and government agencies in how to rebuild key structures so that life is able to return to normal as quickly as possible.
Engineers from consultant engineering firm Ramboll, key partners in our Ready-to-Respond urban disaster programme, have travelled to Kathmandu to assist in the relief efforts, providing essential structural assessments of hospitals in the capital to identify which damaged buildings will need to be retrofitted, rebuilt or destroyed.
We are also in the process of deploying technical experts to the country to provide long-term support with the relief efforts and rebuilding coordination. These experts will be operating in the four districts of the country, primarily assisting with water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) and shelter coordination.
In addition to the above, we are also currently establishing five technical hubs to coordinate the humanitarian response to the crisis, situated in some of the worst-affected districts: Dhading, Gorkgha, Nuwakot, Kathmandu, and Sindhupalchowk. These hubs will provide direct support to local populations, advising them on building infrastructure, how to re-establish safe water supplies, and other logistical support.
Working with communities to build back stronger
The other major element of our response is training. As a capacity-building organisation, we believe that by training local communities and organisations in how to respond to the disaster, we are providing them with long-term support that will minimise the impact of future disasters.
We are currently in the process of establishing a number of training sessions for Nepalese NGOs, local staff working for international NGOs, and representatives from government agencies. These courses will cover a range of essential topics (including shelter driver safety training, and WASH skills) that will help local people to rebuild in a safe and sustainable way.
Long-term, sustainable support
Now that the crisis has moved past the initial phase, local communities in Nepal need support to help them not only recover, but build back stronger from the earthquake. By training people and national organisations in the skills to respond to the disaster, and by preparing them for future crises, RedR is providing long-term support that will build the capacity of both the population and Nepalese civil society as a whole. As the needs of the local population change, so too will our response, and we are maintaining a constant dialogue with those affected to ensure we continue to meet their needs.
Building back Stronger
In the wake of the earthquake which has caused devastation in Nepal, RedR UK is working to save lives in the short term – and developing a local capacity-building programme to rebuild lives, livelihoods, buildings and infrastructure for the long term future.
The 7.9 magnitude earthquake, which struck Nepal’s capital Kathmandu and surrounding regions on Saturday 25th April, is known so far to have caused more than 7,500 deaths, and injured more than 14,500 people.
As more remote affected areas are reached by emergency services and aid agencies, those figures are expected to rise.
Protecting lives right now
RedR UK, along with RedR India and RedR Australia, has Members on the ground, working on the immediate life-saving response in the South Asian state.
They are helping to provide safe water for drinking and hygiene systems, as well as working to ensure people have safe places to stay after their homes were destroyed in the devastating earthquake.
One RedR UK Member, Kemraj Upadhyaya, working as Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor for HelpAge International in Kathmandu explained:
‘We have many people here without safe places to stay. At the moment we are putting up tents but we need two more to house around 200 people who otherwise will be sleeping in the open for more nights.’
And Arno Coever, a RedR UK Member who is leading Malteser International’s Nepal relief operations, warned that time is of the essence.
‘The main thing – the matter hanging over all of our heads – is that the monsoon season is coming in a month and a half. We must get people shelter and safe water before that comes. ‘People are in shock here. They literally don’t know what to do, and in many cases they have no belongings or materials even to make a start. Shops and factories are closed. They can’t buy anything or go to work.’
Addressing Technical Skills shortages
As our Members work to meet immediate needs, RedR India has set up a central hub in Kathmandu which is working not only to help co-ordinate Members engaged in the emergency response, but has also conducted a full needs assessment, so that we at RedR UK understand best way we can help Nepal in the longer-term.
We plan to work on providing technical expertise and capacity-building – training national and international NGOs, government employees and community members, in the skills they need to recover from the earthquake, reduce the impact of future disasters, and improve lives and livelihoods.
The assessment is ongoing, but early signals are that Shelter – as well as water and logistics – is likely to be the major priority.
This is not only because of the immense damage done to properties and infrastructure across the affected regions, but also because even before the earthquake struck, access to clean, safe water was limited, homes were in conditions which risked collapse, and communities were cut off from large parts of the state by poor access to roads – or by those roads’ poor state of repair.
A spokesperson for RedR India explained:
‘Shelter is certainly a major component. In fact Shelter is one particular need which the response would be focusing on. The hub is also currently offering WASH and Logistics sector support as per the need.’
Long term resilience
RedR UK has direct experience in this kind of capacity-building activity. In the wake of the November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan disaster in the Philippines, we worked to provide expert training to Philippines nationals in a range of skills, including shelter and construction.
We used our expertise to train 577 people, 98 per cent of whom were Philippine nationals, working for international NGOs such as Save the Children and Oxfam, national organisations and government bodies. We also created training for UNICEF, in partnership with Relief International, and ran sessions for clusters – the groups set up to enable all relief and aid groups to exchange information and skills.
In one case, we developed Build Back Stronger – a construction and shelter-based skills programme in which community members were taught how to rebuild their properties to better withstand a similar future disaster.
The training was attended by 16 people, who then set out to train to 3,000-5,000 households to reconstruct their homes to help them stand up better to future disasters. One attendee, Kenneth Renera, said:
‘It has enabled me to give ideas to the people in how to build back better.’
Using our expertise and direct experience, RedR UK and its partners plan to work with Nepalese people to help them recover from the earthquake – and improve lives and livelihoods – in a similar way.
Torrential rains in Bangladesh throughout summer 2013, followed by widespread flooding into September 2013, formed an apt backdrop to RedR's community-based disaster risk management training, which was completed this autumn. During the week-long training, 18 participants learned about:
Ten volunteer first-responders who had been involved in recovery efforts after the Rana Plaza factory collapse participated in the training, giving them the opportunity to learn about how to form their own community-based organisation. Volunteers also had the opportunity to network with staff of national and international NGOs, who also attended the training. Rakib Hassan, one of the volunteer first responders at Rana Plaza, commented, “This course brought a combination of good facilitator, participants from NGOs who had expert opinions and experience and volunteers together which helped everyone with proper knowledge sharing.” The NGOs represented were Srotodhara Foundation, PASA, SAFE, Surhid, BRAC, and KBSSS.
The course participants gave the course and trainers a 100% approval rating in all areas, including course content, teaching, materials, and teaching methods. All participants attested that the training had improved their knowledge, skills, and understanding of disaster risk management. Also, every trainee felt that the course was relevant to them and their work.
Dalower Hossain, Programme Coordinator at KBSSS said, “Now I am a trained person on how to handle this type of hazard situation.”
When asked for his opinion about the best aspect of the course, Shahadat Hussein, the volunteer first-responder who contacted us for help, praised RedR's signature “Interactive methods and group works.”
AZM Ridoan, another volunteer, remarked, “The best aspect of the course was group works and discussion in combination with the slide show and videos. We have gained a lot of knowledge from the facilitators as well as the fellow participants. Now, we can handle a tough situation much better way.”
Thanks to our amazing supporters who made RedR's expert training possible, these volunteers are skilled-up and ready to respond to flooding, building collapse, or any other natural or man-made disasters that hit Bangladesh in the coming months and years. Thank you again for your life-saving support.