Disaster Relief Organizations Focus On Nepal

Disaster relief organizations, some of which have been working in Nepal for many years, have mobilized efforts to get humanitarian aid to one of the world’s poorest countries after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck early Saturday morning. Hampering search and rescue efforts was a 6.7-magnitiude aftershock on Sunday. Almost 4,000 people have been killed according to the latest estimates.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has set up a people finder for family members to locate loved ones in the epicenter zone. Google has also launched a person finder for earthquake victims.

Some 205 World Vision staff members manage more than 70 programs in Nepal. The Federal Way, Wash.-based organization has sent a team into affected areas. “In the initial phase, our response will target 100,000 people in the worst-affected areas of Bhaktapur, Gorkha, Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Lamjung,” according to a statement from World Vision. Its response will focus on food, water, shelter and protection for children, including setting up safe places for affected children to play.

World Vision is not alone in having staff already working in Nepal. Population Services International (PSI) reported that 150 staff in Nepal, according to an email from President and CEO Karl Hofmann to supporters. Portland, Ore.-based Mercy Corps has about 90 employees in Nepal, where it has been working since 206. Some staff reported their homes have been destroyed. Mercy Corp will be working with longtime partner the Nepal Red Cross Society to distribute essential household supplies, shelter kits and tarps. “Our focus is to understand the most urgent needs on the ground and given its experience, the organization anticipates that will be shelter, food and water.”

About one-third of Nepal’s citizens live below the national poverty line on less than 25 cents per day, and another third lives on less than $2 per day, according to Mercy Corps.

American Red Cross made an initial commitment of $300,000 to relief efforts. The global Red Cross network is in the process of distributing 19,000 emergency kits that include clothing, tarps and personal hygiene items. It already has given out 1,200 tarps, The Nepal Red Cross Society is providing first aid, search and rescue, donated blood and relief to first responders.

Doctors Without Borders/Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) is sending eight teams to assist in relief efforts. Four MSF teams departed Sunday morning from Brussels. A surgical team of eight MSF staff members left for Kathmandu on Sunday afternoon, with plans to set up a surgical unit and run mobile clinics aimed at reaching affected people in remote areas. Emergency supplies are being sent from Bordeaux, France and another MSF team from Amsterdam departed yesterday with additional medical supplies and water and sanitation capacity.

AmeriCares is sending an emergency response team from its India office in Mumbai as relief workers prepare shipments of medical aid and relief supplies for survivors.

Direct Relief made an initial cash commitment of $50,000 for immediate deployment of “emergency medical response personnel and essential health components.” The Santa Barbara, Calif.-based organization also has made available its entire current medical supply inventory, valued at $100 million, for the response.

Direct Relief expects the relief effort to be a complex logistical challenge in both cities and remote mountainous rural villages, similar to the response to the 2008 earthquake in Kashmir. The response will be “centralized in severely affected urban centers, and decentralized in remote and inaccessible rural villages,” and particularly complex given the “high altitude and mountainous terrain, landslide damage to road infrastructure, lack of landing access for fixed-wing and rotary wing aircraft, in remote areas and damage to communication lines.”

While some charities are sending medical aid and staff, others have started the fundraising push to aid efforts.

Save the Children, which has been working in Nepal since 1976, launched a fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $50 million for the region. The Fairfield, Conn.-based nonprofit is also distributing tarps and packages containing children’s clothes and hygiene products. “The sheer devastation of the recent earthquake becomes clearer, we know that children have been the most affected by this disaster,” Roger Hodgson, deputy country director for Save the Children in Nepal, said in a statement. “Despite the difficulties in reaching some of the hardest-hit regions, Save the Children is mobilizing much-needed items to help these children and their families. Helping those most affected by this disaster will continue to be our top priority in the coming days, weeks and months.”

Global Giving is on its way to reaching a $1 million goal for its Nepal Earthquake Fund, having received almost $750,000 from nearly 12,000 donations as of this morning. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has established the CDP Nepal Earthquake Recovery Fund to focus on medium- and long-term rebuilding and recovery for the region. Alexandria, Va.-based Global Impact has started the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. The fund will support Global Impact partner charities on the ground in Nepal, of which a dozen were cited in a press release, including AmeriCares, Lutheran World Relief, Save the Children and World Vision.