Disaster responders must listen to Nepalese — Valerie Amos

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos. As well as providing emergency assistance in the immediate aftermath, Amos called on aid and development organizations to work together to help people rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Photo by: John Gillespie /  CC BY-SA

Global development professionals working in earthquake-hit Nepal must listen to local communities to ensure their needs are met, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator has urged.

After returning from a visit to the disaster zone, where 8.1 million people require humanitarian assistance, Valerie Amos — speaking to Devex before a second 7.3-magnitude quake hit the country May 12 — said that communicating with affected districts was “critical” during the crisis.

“Communities have their own coping mechanisms for dealing with disasters and it is important that support given by international organizations does not duplicate what people are already doing,” she said.

As well as providing emergency assistance in the immediate aftermath, Amos called on aid and development organizations to work together to help people rebuild their lives and livelihoods in the medium and longer term.

She said the World Food Program is providing priority food assistance to up to 1.4 million people, including the 750,000 affected in hard-to-reach areas among a total of 3.5 million people estimated to be in need of food assistance.

At the same time, the body is working closely with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to ensure families receive seeds and tools to begin replanting and provide for themselves in the long term.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck April 25 killed more than 8,000 people and injured over 17,800, according to figures released May 10 by the country’s National Emergency Operations Center. It estimates 10 percent of the country’s homes were destroyed or damaged.

Despite the scale of devastation, Amos said the results would have been worse were it not for U.N. preparedness work carried out with the Nepalese government ahead of the quake.

“A key priority of the U.N. country team in Nepal has been to build the country’s capacity to respond to natural disasters,” she explained. “Many lives have been saved because the disaster response systems that were established were able to swiftly take action when disaster struck. ... Communities had been drilled in earthquake response activities at district level and these are now able to initiate actions in their areas.”

Amos said it was too early to estimate how long it would take Nepal to recover, but indicated that long-term costs could reach billions of dollars. The United Nations and its partners have so far appealed for $423 million to address the most critical needs for shelter, water, sanitation, health, food and protection over the next three months.

“After that initial period we hope that aid agencies can begin to hand over to development partners who will support the government in addressing longer-term issues, including restructuring and rebuilding lives and livelihoods,” Amos added.

U.N. agencies and its partners are currently on the ground supporting victims of the natural disaster. These include UNICEF, which has provided tents and health care supplies, and the World Health Organization, which has distributed medical supplies to 40,000 people.

Read more international development news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive the latest from the world’s leading donors and decision-makers — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Gabriella Jóźwiak

    Gabriella Jóźwiak is an award-winning journalist based in London. Her work on issues and policies affecting children and young people in developing countries and the U.K. has been published in national newspapers and magazines. Having worked in-house for domestic and international development charities, Jóźwiak has a keen interest in organizational development, and has worked as a journalist in several countries across West Africa and South America.