The huge value of social media during a humanitarian disaster became obvious once again today when Dave Girling, a friend and former colleague at Perth High School, put me in touch with Kurt Leitch a friend of his from Aberfeldy, Perthshire. Kurt works for Paddle Nepal in Pokhara, Nepal, which specialises in guiding kayaking, rafting and canyoning adventures in the region. Along with several other adventure organisations, Paddle Nepal is helping to coordinate a well-organised and efficient relief operation from Pokhara in the aftermath of last Saturday’s devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake, thus supplementing the overstretched resources of the authorities.
We spent this evening helping Paddle Nepal staff and volunteers to load sacks of rice and tarpaulins on to 4WD vehicles that will leave tomorrow morning bound for villages in the remote Gorkha region, which lies at the epicenter of Saturday’s earthquake. While everyone was visibly tired from another day of collecting and sorting donations of food, water, tarpaulins, tents and clothes, they were all in good spirits, but there was a real sense of urgency: this vital aid needs to get to vulnerable people who are suffering in some of the poorest communities in Nepal to prevent the death toll from rising even higher.
Karlis Putns, who works for Open Sky Paragliding in Pokhara, reported that a group of people from various adventure activity companies in the area had met on Sunday evening to begin to coordinate an emergency response for rural communities who had not yet been reached by the authorities or non-governmental organisations. On Monday morning, Karlis and more than twenty other volunteers took seven motorbikes and two 4WD vehicles loaded with supplies to Sourpani in the remote Gorkha District. Previously, the army had informed the group that the road to Sourpani was impassable, but the group persevered and, after travelling for over six hours, arrived just ahead of the army. It was concerning to hear from a volunteer that it had not been possible to access some villages due to ‘bureaucracy’. When I probed further, it was implied that some groups were deliberately obstructing the supplies for their own purposes. Acquiring a UK Government 4WD, with blue diplomatic number plates, will hopefully minimise problems during future aid distribution.
The Paddle Nepal/Open Sky Paragliding group distributed aid in Sourpani and the surrounding villages in the form of tarpaulins, blankets, water and rice. They reported that the villages of Taple, Tan Tan, Gagan Pani, Lapsibot, Keprung, Simyling, Mabir, Patle and Phalpu have been completely destroyed. No homes were left standing and dust from the fallen buildings was still lingering in the air. It has been estimated by teams on the ground that between 30% and 80% of village populations and livestock have been killed. Near one village, women, children and elderly people were found sheltering beneath a single tarpaulin. Men often move away to urban areas in Nepal and overseas to seek employment. In the village above, all of the houses were flattened. Many families traditionally keep their livestock beneath their living area, and the majority of livestock in the area have been trapped and killed by the collapsed buildings. With so many dead bodies beneath the rubble there is growing concern that disease could spread rapidly. The situation really is desperate, and surviving villagers are walking up to eight hours each way to collect basic food supplies and a tarpaulin from Paddle Nepal’s supply centre. So far, no other aid has been received other than that distributed by this grassroots organisation. A CNN crew arrived in the area today to report on the current situation in these remote communities. Their report is available here: https://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/30/asia/nepal-earthquake-epicenter-region/index.html
A few pounds will go a very long way here and more money is urgently needed to purchase more supplies. All money goes directly to purchasing supplies that will make a real difference to rural populations in the short-term, particularly in the unseasonably stormy weather that the region has been experiencing since the earthquake. Kurt stated that there was a steady stream of volunteers, so no one should consider travelling to Nepal to help, unless they are a qualified doctor with field experience.
If you have not already donated to the Nepal Earthquake Appeal, please consider donating to The Cloudbase Foundation at www.thecloudbasefoundation.org When donating please use the reference “NEPAL RELIEF-PADDLE NEPAL”.
For more information on the organisations involved in this aid operation please visit the following websites, and follow them on Facebook for regular updates on the aid operation: Cloudbase Foundation – www.thecloudbasefoundation.org/site/about KarmaFlights – www.karmaflights.org Paddle Nepal – www.paddlenepal.com/about-us