A helpdesk volunteer listening to displaced people
An estimated 2.8 million people were displaced by the devastating earthquake in Nepal on April 25th. However, when our volunteers visited shelters set up by the government for this purpose, they found them empty. This is stark example of the need for a system to help earthquake victims navigate the resources available to them and to help government and non-government actors make sure their relief efforts reach those who need them most.
During the first few days after the earthquake, Accountability Lab and Local Interventions Group partnered together to set up mobile citizen helpdesks in key locations in the hardest hit districts around Kathmandu. Our trained volunteers at the helpdesks have already directly helped over 500 citizens. Here are a few examples of the help they’ve provided.
- Support for victims—Four pregnant women residing in temporary camps run by the government needed special care: our volunteers coordinated with Marie Stopes International to dispatch their trained volunteers to assist with support;
- Reuniting families—The team helped connect an elderly woman in Bhaktapur who had lost her family, by arranging for an FM radio call, which her son heard and found her;
- Coordination of supplies—The village of Jagate, people were sleeping outside uncovered during cold and rainy weather: our volunteers connected them with a team of Indonesian relief workers with tents looking for the worst affected populations. Similarly, we found out that the village of Dukuchan , where 78 houses had been damaged, only had 15 tents, while a camp 2 miles away had an oversupply of up to 5 tents per family: we informed the authorities to resolve the situation.
- Drinking water—In the village of Kapan, our volunteers connected a community in desperate need of drinking water with a drinking water supplier from outside Kathmandu;
- Healthcare—In Sindhupalchowk district, a resident suffered from a critical spinal injury: our volunteers coordinated with a private hospital in Kathmandu to help him receive an MRI scan and treatment. Similarly, at a displaced camp near a hospital in Tundikhel, medical desks were set up but staff were not visiting the tents to see what the needs were: our team visited every tent in the camp, making people aware of the available medical services and accompanied those in need to the hospital to facilitate the process;
- Support for the homeless—A homeless person from Ramecchap district was overlooked by relief efforts: helpdesk volunteers supported him with essential medication, food and drinking water;
- Housing inspections—In the village of Kapan, we found a team of engineers who agreed to assess structural damage to citizens’ homes and provide expert consultation on whether the houses are fit for habitation.
These helpdesks are also connected to an SMS platform and the government’s emergency hotline—which we are the only two organizations that the government has given permission to access and coordinate with them on. During their first week of operation, the mobile citizen helpdesks processed over 21,000 direct voice calls requesting help and assistance, and referred them to the respective local government units and NGOs that could provide relief—including Red Cross, World Food Programme, Medicines Sans Frontiers, and more. This increased others’ ability to respond to citizens’ needs in real-time, and created valuable feedback loops between all the key stakeholders on the ground working on earthquake relief.
We are now mapping all the data from helpdesk requests and responses (available soon at www.quakenepal2015.org) and developing monthly citizen scorecards to inform and shape relief efforts as they evolve.
This week we are expanding our efforts to the 15 most affected districts outside Kathmandu. Your support has played a huge role in making our work so far possible! Please consider giving again and helping us spread the word through your network, as we continue to make the earthquake response more accountable in the many critical weeks ahead.
Some of our 52 enthusiastic helpdesk volunteers
Strategy and training meeting with the volunteers
Children in one of the displaced camps we helped
Working in the emergency hotline call center
People finding the resources they need to survive