Race to reach Nepal earthquake survivors before monsoon rains

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 07 May 2015

Survivors of Nepal’s massive earthquake are in a race against time to secure shelter and adequate sanitation before the monsoon rains begin in early June.

Tens of thousands of people have seen their homes flattened or damaged to such an extent that it is not safe for them to return.

Oxfam has been working to provide shelter, toilets and clean water in seven of the worst-affected districts. All relief efforts must be stepped up immediately to reach vulnerable people before the rains set in.

There is a danger of waterborne diseases in Nepal in the coming months. In rural areas, a shortage of toilets is forcing many people to have to defecate in the open. Damage to water pipes means that some people are resorting to drinking untreated water.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said there was a huge risk of waterborne disease in Nepal – a country where cholera was already endemic.

“Oxfam has been quick to deliver aid to desperate local communities and is building toilets and delivering clean water and hygiene kits to thousands of people,” she said.

There is also a chronic lack of adequate housing. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake and a series of powerful aftershocks damaged up to 90 per cent of the houses in some areas. Families are living under tarpaulins and materials salvaged from the rubble.

Oxfam’s country director in Nepal Cecilia Keizer said the scale of this disaster was now becoming apparent.

“There were so many people already suffering before the earthquake and I am particularly concerned about single women, the elderly and lower-caste members of society in areas that can only be reached by foot,” she said.

Oxfam has announced relief plans to reach 430,000 people as quickly as possible with a US $32 million program, focusing largely on water and sanitation work.

In the first week since the earthquake, it has secured around US $22 million mainly from the generosity of the public around the world but desperately needs more funds to continue this vital work and with the rainy season just around the corner, there is no time to waste.   “Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries and it is not equipped to deal with this crisis alone,” Ms Keizer said.

Oxfam has welcomed Australian Government support of $10 million.

To donate to Oxfam’s Nepal Earthquake Appeal, go to www.oxfam.org.au or phone 1800 034 034.

For interviews contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au

Photographs of Oxfam’s water and sanitation work can be accessed here:  http://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=18501&k=26fdd004c1

Notes to editors:  Oxfam is working in camps for displaced people across the Kathmandu Valley as well as in four rural districts: Nuwakot, Sindhupalchok, Dhading and Gorkha.