A woman in Nepal drinks recently purified water thanks to UMCOR implementing partner GlobalMedic.
By David Tereshchuk*
May 12, 2015—UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is ramping up its response to April’s devastating earthquake in Nepal. The 7.9 magnitude quake’s initial impact was compounded by high-intensity aftershocks, and the avalanches and landslides that followed.
Injury, loss of life, and physical damage extend through 60 of the country’s 75 districts. The devastation embraces cities like greater Kathmandu (the country’s capital) and Pokhara, and also vast stretches of often inaccessible rural areas that include steeply mountainous territory.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of May 6, casualties included 7,675 deaths; 16,392 injured; 284,455 homes completely destroyed—twice the original estimate; and 234,102 homes damaged. In the Kathmandu Valley, some 37,500 people remained displaced.
UMCOR is supporting the work of partners on the ground in Nepal who can provide quick-acting assistance. Since the quake occurred April 25, UMCOR has supplied grants to four partner organizations totaling $315,039.
Grants have gone to GlobalMedic, a Canada-based organization with regional partners in South Asia; Church Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), which is based in India and working with locally based United Mission to Nepal (UMN); to UMN itself; and to the Nepal Community Empowerment Group (NCEG).
Most urgent requirements
|GlobalMedic has been operating large-scale water purification units in Nepal to provide clean drinking water at the household and community levels. Photo: GlobalMedic
Those categories of emergency supplies—clean drinking water, hygiene kits, and non-food items such as tents, tarps, blankets, and cooking implements—are among the most urgent needs, as they often are in such a huge disaster as Nepal’s.
The Rev. Jack Amick, UMCOR assistant general secretary for International Disaster Response, emphasized the need for international efforts to be carefully matched with the specific nature of Nepal’s own conditions and experience.
“We are working fully in concert with local capacity,” Amick said, “responding to needs expressed by those already on the ground, and providing resources in a way that builds capacity as well as addressing the immediate emergency.”
GlobalMedic is delivering and installing 50 water purification systems (the AP700 Ultrafiltration Membrane Unit) along with accompanying hand-pumps, which will each provide safe, clean drinking water to an entire community.
It also is distributing 500 individual water purification units, known by their trade-name “Rainfresh,” which purify water for single households. In addition, GlobalMedic will distribute 13 large tents for use by schools and hospitals with damaged infrastructure.
Aerial surveys by GlobalMedic’s team, which will be deployed in a rotating fashion until at least July, are helping to assess exactly where this lifesaving aid is most needed.
CASA is acquiring hygiene kits and other items, such as cooking utensils, pots, and blankets, for distribution in Nepal by UMN. UMCOR also is contributing to a separate relief appeal by UMN, which has run community-based health and education programs in Nepal for more than 60 years.
Locally based NCEG will use the support it receives from UMCOR to acquire and distribute tents for emergency shelter and a two-week supply of food rations among 250 affected families.
Crisis reports continue to come from the small team of United Methodist Global Ministries missionaries currently serving in Nepal. It includes Katherine Parker, who is assigned to work with UMN.
She reports that in Dhading District, west of Kathmandu, where UMN has built up close partnerships over time and has well-established local knowledge, the urgent task of delivering supplies is challenged not just by the sheer scale of earthquake damage, but by inaccessibility.
“We are exploring [the use of] both porters and mule trains as well as helicopters,” Parker said in an email to United Methodist News Service. “However, helicopters seem to be in short supply and high demand.”
“UMCOR considers it a sacred trust,” said Amick, “to ensure that funds are granted quickly, but also carefully, so that projects have the best chance of providing humanitarian assistance in a way that does no harm, is impartial, and respects the dignity of those receiving assistance.“
Your gift to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450 will enable UMCOR to respond in a timely way to emergencies like the Nepal earthquake, working collaboratively with local and international partners.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org