August 6, 2015 — On Saturday, April 25th, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake–the worst earthquake to hit Nepal in more than 80 years–struck just outside the country’s heavily populated capital, Kathmandu, impacting areas across the country and its neighboring borders with India, China, Bangladesh and Tibet. The disaster triggered deadly avalanches on Mount Everest and in the Langtang Valley, and caused widespread building collapses, damages to infrastructure, injuries and deaths. Massive aftershocks continued throughout the month, furthering damage and making relief and recovery efforts difficult. Less than a month later, on Tuesday, May 12th, a second earthquake, registered as a magnitude 7.3, shook the country and exacerbated chaotic conditions brought about by the earlier quake. Soon after, the monsoon season arrived, bringing with it the risk of landslides and flooding in already vulnerable communities.
As a result of the earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks, more than 9,000 people were killed and upwards of 20,000 people were injured. According to the UN, an estimated 8 million people were affected across 39 of the country’s 75 districts, 3.2 million of which were children and 2.8 million of which continue to need humanitarian assistance. Early relief efforts proved challenging as logistical bottlenecks and widespread chaos and disorganization made it difficult for aid groups to deliver supplies effectively. Today, many communities continue to await much-needed immediate and long-term recovery support that has been slow to arrive.
Operation USA responded to the disaster with both cash grants and a shipment of in-kind relief materials. In May, a grant was made to Himalayan Healthcare via long-time partner Brother’s Brother Foundation, allowing for the local purchase of medical supplies for impacted hospitals. Later that same month, a shipment of donated material goods including medical supplies and equipment, power generators and lighting equipment, hygiene items and shelter materials was delivered to partners in Nepal. As of August, supporters have contributed more than $650,000 to Nepal relief efforts, with additional program funding and in-kind donations currently being sought from corporate partners.
Among the hardest hit sectors in the wake of the earthquakes is the country’s education system, with an estimated 7,000 schools destroyed and 35,986 classrooms damaged. In July, Operation USA programs staff members traveled to Nepal to assess needs and identify education program opportunities. Keeping in line with OpUSA’s mission to facilitate programs in vulnerable communities overlooked by larger international relief organizations, those staff members spent most of their trip traveling to rural villages well outside of the capital of Kathmandu to meet with populations demonstrating the greatest need for support. As a result of the trip, Operation USA decided to focus recovery efforts on the heavily damaged district of Dhading, where approximately 597 people were killed by the earthquakes and 75% of homes either collapsed or were declared unsafe to inhabit.
Dhading is home to a large population of Dalit and indigenous communities that have historically faced discrimination along ethnic and gender lines, impacting every aspect of their lives. These communities were hit hard by the earthquakes, and continue to be plagued by mudslides and hard rains from the monsoon season. OpUSA staff members met with village leaders throughout the area to discuss what their most pressing needs are, and learned that the restoration of educational infrastructure is at the top of their list. Throughout the visit, it was moving to see that despite the many hardships and limited resources these communities have, they have begun the very hard work of recovery on their own–building makeshift temporary learning centers to make certain that their children’s education continues, and doing their best to provide shelter for the many families who lost their homes.
The village of Kalidaha, in Dhading, is located 80 kilometers from Kathmandu and is home to approximately 3,600 people. Residing in the village, where 14 classrooms were rendered unusable by the earthquakes, are 380 students in kindergarten through tenth grade. It is here that Operation USA hopes to develop a corporate-sponsored educational recovery program. Re-establishing the community’s ability to provide safe educational opportunities will give children the social and emotional connections crucial to overcoming the trauma of the disaster.
Khalde Fyakse, also in Dhading, is an extremely rural village located 125 kilometers from Kathmandu which is home to 1,700 people. Due to its distance from the capital and difficult terrain, aid has been slow to arrive, and villagers have struggled to recover with only their own limited resources. The village, which is home to 306 school age children, lost 12 classrooms as a result of earthquake damage. Educational recovery programs here are especially important as children in the area have long faced challenges in gaining access to advancement opportunities.
Currently, Operation USA is working with long-time corporate partners and the people of Kalidaha to develop a school reconstruction project in that village. In Khalde Fyakse, Operation USA will utilize funds generously donated by supporters to develop a second school recovery project. In both villages, OpUSA will facilitate the development of over-arching educational recovery programs to rehabilitate the school systems.
More updates on Nepal earthquake recovery will be forthcoming as programs are developed. Operation USA would like to thank all those who have generously donated to recovery efforts so far. To give now, click here.
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