By Chad Loftis
The true extent of the devastation wreaked by last month's earthquake in Nepal is slowly being realised as relief efforts finally expand to remote areas. The death toll has risen to over 7,000. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that half a million houses have been destroyed or damaged leaving tens of thousands of people internally displaced.
The need for shelter, clean water, sanitation, and food is most severe in rural areas like Dhading where SIM and partner United Mission to Nepal (UMN) are preparing to deliver immediate aid. Major roads into Dhading and other badly affected areas were opened over the weekend permitting trucks and medical teams access.
SIM's Hakjin Chun took advantage of the newly cleared roads to deliver a small carload of supplies to Patingmuni, his house helper's hometown four hours outside Kathmandu.
"As we expected, they were in grief over this trauma," said Hakjin about arriving in the village. "Their houses had collapsed - partly or completely - during the earthquake. It looked like a war field...One of the surviving men said that 11 of his close family members and relatives were killed... He said that he is no more with his loved ones and could not see or touch them. As we looked at all of this tragedy, it became too heavy for me and I started crying."
Major logistical and political hurdles are still preventing a steady flow of relief money and supplies into the country while aftershocks and poor weather hamper delivery efforts and raise fears of further disaster. A recent OCHA report set the number of those needing food relief in the country as high as three million with around 85,000 preschool children suffering from malnutrition. Rumours of aid-looting by hungry earthquake victims have also slowed progress as smaller organisations are apprehensive of transporting aid unassisted.
But SIM's doctor Kathryn Brown says that, in spite of the devastation and apparent chaos, "the overwhelming spirit on the ground is one of togetherness. While isolated stories of looting and unrest make the evening news, more truthfully everyone is caring for everyone. It is beautiful."
SIM and UMN will continue pursuing channels for the quick delivery of relief into Dhading. Plans to resupply SIM-staffed hospitals and assist in the evaluation and reconstruction of homes and public buildings like the KISC school are also moving ahead. Engineering Ministries International has responded to SIM's request for engineers and have arranged to send a team to assist in structural evaluations by next week.
Please pray with us in the words of Hakjin Chun: "O Lord please comfort those who are suffering and have lost their loved ones - heal their scars!"