ShelterBox response teams have overcome formidable obstacles to begin distribution of emergency aid to communities in Nepal hit by floods and landslides.
If Nepal – home to Mount Everest and the Sherpa people – is famous for one thing, it is the country’s rugged, mountainous terrain. Members of the six ShelterBox response teams who have worked in the country over the last month and a half have become very familiar with the challenges posed by Nepal’s topography.
The first response team arrived just a week after the worst of the flooding in mid August which displaced around 14,000 families and destroyed more than 11,000 homes. ShelterBox’s efforts have been focused on the hardest hit areas of western Nepal, in districts located up to 500 miles from the capital, Kathmandu.
With many communities cut off by damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure, response team members have had to resort to tractors, trucks and their own two feet to reach villages in need of assistance.
One team, comprising Sallie Buck, Angelo Spencer-Smith and David Hatcher (all from the UK) trekked 13 miles, across rivers and around landslides in the Surkhet district to find 35 families living under tarpaulins after their homes had collapsed.
‘Everything I owned is gone’, said villager Laxmi Thopa.
And since the tarpaulins were simply draped over pieces of wood scavenged from the forest, they offered no protection against the rain and cold.
Response team volunteer Sallie Buck commented: ‘The trip back was even harder than the trip there, including crossing a thigh-deep river. The temperature had risen considerably by then and we had to make frequent stops. However at the end I felt that this is what ShelterBox does best, reaching the parts that other organisations don’t.’
ShelterBoxes have now been delivered to the families reached by the response teams that day.
Meanwhile, a six hour trip by tractor, 4×4 and on foot was the only way for team members Sanchia Gallagher, Mark Errington and Nicola Hinds (also from the UK), working with the Red Cross, UNICEF and a branch of the Nepal police, to deliver a consignment of boxes to a remote village in the Taranga area. At one point, boxes had to be manhandled almost vertically up a makeshift ramp to gain access to a suspension bridge damaged by the floods.
Response team volunteer Mark Errington said: ‘We were the first NGO to get supplies through as the road had only been cleared a few days before…it’s fair to say that there was a mood of excitement once we erected a tent and demonstrated the equipment to the villagers.’
22 ShelterBoxes have been delivered to the area already and a further 45 are on the way.
All told, some 224 ShelterBoxes have arrived in Nepal and are now being distributed, with the same number again in transit to the country. Our strategy of pre-positioning equipment at strategic locations around the world – in this case in Malaysia and Dubai – means that we have been able to ability to deliver aid rapidly.
Reflecting the importance we place on partnerships in the field, ShelterBox is working in close cooperation with other organisations, both large international NGOs like the Red Cross and UNICEF, and local authorities such as the Nepal police. And, as always, our Rotary friends have provided invaluable assistance with local knowledge, contacts and logistics.
All of which is helping ShelterBox to overcome formidable logistical difficulties and reach communities in need. With another response team on the way to Kathmandu, our commitment to helping the people of Nepal to recover from the recent disaster is undiminished.