Oxfam’s humanitarian team have reached the Nepal earthquake epicentre Gorkha and are working to meet the needs of earthquake survivors desperate for food, water and shelter.
Oxfam Head of Emergencies Meg Quartermaine said Oxfam aid workers arrived in the district northwest of Kathmandu to find widespread destruction.
“This was the epicentre of the earthquake and the damage is devastating. Thousands of villagers are unaccounted for and there is a critical need for emergency shelter, water and food assistance,” Ms Quartermaine said.
“In Lamsang village 30-40 per cent of buildings are damaged and in Pokribara village 40 percent are damaged, with many houses razed to the ground and the majority of partially-damaged homes now unsafe or unliveable.
“There are no organised camps set up yet and many people have abandoned their villages and damaged water systems mean villagers that remain are struggling to find safe drinking water.”
As the response effort ramps up Oxfam also warned of the need to protect women who face an increased risk of violence after the disaster, and ensure the needs of both men and women are met.
Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke said women were most vulnerable after an emergency and aid delivery needed to ensure they were kept safe, and not side-lined from decisions on the response and recovery.
“Emergencies such as this hurt women and girls hardest. Women are often already the most vulnerable before a disaster, and this increases in the wake of disasters. Sadly in times of upheaval where people are displaced from their homes we often see a rise in the incidence of violence against women stemming from social instability,” Dr Szoke said.
“Simple measures like ensuring toilets are well lit and away from men’s toilets make a huge difference to women’s security, and where toilets have doors, locks are essential.
Dr Szoke said bottlenecks of people and supplies at Kathmandu Airport combined with fuel shortages, impassable roads and difficult terrain continued to hamper the relief effort, but aid organisations were working hard to overcome these challenges.
“The people of Nepal are understandably desperate for help. We need to get water, food and shelter to those in need as quickly as possible,” Dr Szoke said.
“Nepal’s mountainous terrain and limited road network make this an especially challenging response, so we are looking at all available options, including bringing aid overland from India.
“In Kathmandu Valley Oxfam is providing water, pit toilets and tarpaulins to earthquake survivors living in four open-air camps. We are aiming to at least 350,000 people in the valley and beyond in harder to reach rural areas.”
To donate to Oxfam’s Nepal Earthquake Appeal visit www.oxfam.org.au or call 1800 034 034.
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