By Chad Loftis
Daily life is returning to "normal" in Nepal, after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Saturday, April 25, sent the country into a state of emergency. SIM and partner personnel have been volunteering in local hospitals and debriefing with survivors in "tarp villages", and are preparing to make a fuller response to the far-reaching aftermath of the quake.
"We used to live in the BQE - Before Quake Era," says Gabriel Jens, SIM Nepal director who arrived in Kathmandu with his wife, Biz, just eight months ago. "Now it is AQE - After Quake Era. Before we could sleep peacefully; we could enter any building without worry;, we didn't have to stock up madly wheneverwe heard that Big Mart was open again. There were no tarp villages in our neighbourhood, and we didn't hear about church members who had lost their lives."
SIM will serve alongside its partner, the United Mission to Nepal, in providing immediate relief to villages in the rural Dhading district. UMN will channel aid - including food, medical supplies, treatment and temporary shelter - to local village governments, called VDCs, who will distribute it in their communities.
Coordinating with the VDCs and determining the extent of the damage is proving difficult, however. "Communication with this district is almost impossible," says Jens. Mountainous terrain and poor telecommunications infrastructure in the impoverished area has forced a team from UMN to try contacting the villages by car and on foot. An International Nepal Fellowship exploratory team is giving early reports of villages with 70 to 90 percent of houses destroyed in Dhading and Gorkha, massive food and water supply needs and countless deaths (that initial report here).
The staff of Lamjung Hospital, a 60-bed hospital near the epicenter of the earthquake, were also preparing to take food and medical aid into the surrounding countryside today. SIM doctor, Dave Kim, maintained basic hospital services alone while his wife, Jenny, and their two children tried to resume a routine.
"Things remain calm in our town, with normal supplies of food, water and power," Jenny Kim said last night." But it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the dire predictions of earthquake-related catastrophes in the coming days.Landslides triggered by the monsoons, epidemic outbreaks, rebuilding difficulties in a country fraught with instability and poor infrastructure.""
SIM personnel are exploring possibilities to help repair and rebuild infrastructure and homes in the countryside. The decimated KISC school in Kathmandu will also be repaired with SIM aid. Besides the shortage of building supplies, a major obstacle is a lack of experienced engineers and skilled builders.
"Finding a structural engineer in Nepal is not easy Before Quake Era; After Quake Era it is impossible," Jens said. SIM is searching for civil engineers with expertise in structural design and evaluation willing to volunteer. "The sooner we have these people, the better it will be," said Jens.
SIM Nepal's disaster relief project will include immediate food, water and medical relief for rural area; rebuilding infrastructure in the countryside, repairing the KISC school in Kathmandu, and medical supplies for Lamjung and Tansen hospitals. If you would like to support this work financially, please do so here.