— Peter W. Bodde (@AmbPeterBodde) April 28, 2015
As the world watches, Nepal continues to face tragedy, destruction and chaos in the wake of Saturday’s devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake. By current estimates, more than 5,500 people have died and nearly 11,200 more are injured. A total of 8 million people have been affected by the disaster. As rescue efforts continue, these numbers are expected to rise.
On Tuesday, USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) — comprising more than 130 humanitarian experts and urban search and rescue personnel — landed in Nepal with 90,000 pounds of equipment to coordinate the U.S. Government’s earthquake response efforts. Immediately, the DART began conducting disaster assessments and established a base of operations from which teams will work to help locate survivors. A Washington D.C.-based Response Management Team from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has also been activated.
Total U.S. humanitarian assistance for the Nepal earthquake response now stands at $12.5 million. USAID provided $10 million to address immediate life-saving priorities, including search and rescue efforts and the provision of shelter, safe drinking water, sanitation, emergency health care, and additional needs that emerge in the coming days. The remaining $2.5 million will go to the United Nations World Food Programme to buy 1,390 metric tons of rice, which is expected to help 120,000 people for one month.
Countries across the world are coming together to help the people of Nepal. The United Nations, international organizations, governments and NGOs are coordinating closely with the Government of Nepal to work quickly and save lives.
“This is a pretty well-oiled machine, actually,” Jeremy Konyndyk, director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, said during an interview with MSNBC two days after the earthquake. “There is a whole international system for deploying and coordinating search-and-rescue teams.”
However, the earthquake response effort is not without challenges. Some aid teams have had trouble landing in Nepal; the already-small airport has had to restrict flight volume. Also, with aftershocks likely to continue in the following days, people are afraid to go back into their homes, and resulting avalanches could block roads — preventing aid workers from accessing some communities.
USAID is developing strategies to deal with these challenges. We are working with the U.S. military on ways to reach hard-hit areas and speed up the delivery of critical supplies. We’re airlifting 700 rolls of plastic sheeting from our warehouse in Dubai to help up to 17,500 people with emergency shelter needs. We’re coordinating closely with our partners to make sure that the most vulnerable are protected from harm.
USAID has a long history of support to Nepal. In addition to numerous programs addressing education, global health, food security and more, the Agency has supported disaster risk reduction efforts in Nepal for more than two decades.
In partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Government of Nepal, USAID has helped identify, prepare, and preserve 80 open spaces in Kathmandu Valley to serve as distribution centers or warehouses in the event of crisis. After Saturday’s earthquake, this program allowed IOM and the Nepalese Government to identify sites that are now being used to shelter displaced people.
Critical emergency relief supplies have been pre-positioned, allowing communities to have their immediate needs rapidly addressed. Much work has been done to strengthen the ability of Nepal’s government to respond to an earthquake like this one.
USAID is also no stranger to large-scale disaster response. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance responds to an average of 70 disasters in 56 countries every year, delivering aid to those in need during times of emergency, conflict and crisis. In past year alone, USAID has led the global Ebola response, supported food security during times of drought, responded to floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina and continues to provide life-saving assistance to people affected by ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and South Sudan.
In the coming days, weeks and months, USAID will stand by the people of Nepal and the region during this time of need to help individuals, families, and hard-hit communities. Click here to learn about ways you can support the organizations responding to the earthquake.
Clara Wagner contributed reporting to this article.