Oxfam is aiming to help an initial 350,000 people hit by the earthquake in Nepal, providing clean water, toilets and shelter to thousands of people.
The international aid organisation has warned that survivors of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake face a second disaster, with contaminated water and a lack of sanitation providing a potentially deadly double threat.
As the Nepalese Government’s official death toll from the disaster climbed above 4000 the international aid agency said that limited access to clean water and hygiene increased the risk of diseases spreading unchecked.
Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke said while the most immediate risk remained the aftershocks that have seen thousands of people sleep in the open to avoid being crushed in further building collapses, survivors were vulnerable to hidden health risks.
“In an emergency of this scale and complexity water and sanitation is absolutely critical to preventing further suffering and loss of life,” Dr Szoke said.
“With infrastructure like pipes damaged, water supplies contaminated and thousands homeless and living in basic camps, it is essential that we act as quickly as possible to deliver drinking water and safe toilets to those in need. These people have lost too much already to be struck down by illness as well.”
More than 3.5 million people are estimated to have been affected by the earthquake that hit on Saturday.
Oxfam is currently establishing water provision in 4 of the 16 open air camps set up by the Nepalese Government in the Kathmandu Valley, with the view of coordinating with other agencies to eventually provide water to all 16 sites, and the 30,000 people living in them.
“Oxfam has started building temporary toilets and delivering water to those in need in the Kathmandu Valley, and we plan to scale up this work as quickly as possible,” Dr Szoke said.
“We have a team from India making their way to Gorkha to assess needs on the ground in what is believed to be one of the worst affected areas and are also making assessments in Lalitpur, Lumjung districts and across the border in India in Sitamarhi and Darbanga.”
More than 5 tons of water and sanitation materials have been dispatched from Oxfam’s warehouse in Barcelona to help those hit by the crisis.
Dr Szoke thanked the public for their already generous support, with Oxfam raising more than $1.5m internationally, but said more was needed. “
“This is life-saving work and given the resources required, the challenge of getting to affected communities cut off by damaged roads, and the sheer scale of this emergency, we need all the help we can get,” Dr Szoke said.
Oxfam Appeal details: Donations to the Nepal earthquake appeal can be made by visiting an Oxfam shop, calling 1800 034 034, or via http://www.oxfam.org.au