When the first tremors were felt last month in Nepal, nobody would have thought that they were living through the strongest earthquake to hit the country in almost eighty years. What followed was a tragic horror story of destruction, death and harrowing images, further exacerbated not only by the poorly prepared nation but by the many strong aftershocks felt thereon. Estimates range from between 7.8 to 8.1 on the Richter scale, but what can cast no doubt is that this is the most devastating event to have struck a country that was previously not short of problems. Already known for its dysfunctional political system, poverty and corruption, it is as if nature set out to stretch the limits of Nepali resilience to the adverse.
Over 8,500 deaths and 19,000 injuries have been the gruesome statistics of a seism that has to this date displaced over half a million people and destroyed over eighty percent of the infrastructure. This was however not without warning, as seismologists had previously commented on the lack of resistant infrastructure that the country possessed and the lack of scrutiny with which buildings were erected. The 1934 earthquake was of a bigger magnitude yes, but the quantity of buildings were less, of fewer stories, the population was smaller and of minor density.
International aid poured in within hours of the tragedy, international organisations from the United Nations to the Red Cross and countries from around the globe rushed to show their support and solidarity – at times too overwhelmingly, for it seemed again as if Nepal’s bureaucratic woes were going to prevent a rescue effort of effective proportions to be appropriately carried out. Pictures appeared of stockpiled aid and packed runways, news emerged of planes filled with aid returning as they had left their respective nations and the anger and confusion grew substantially across the Nepali public and a number of international media. But things must be delineated clearly once they are seen from the larger scope. Many were the organisations that attempted to individually distribute the aid with no regard towards equity, both in light of a self-devised plan of action and a lack of trust in the government’s capability and its previously witnessed modus operandi.
They wouldn’t be to blame for their scepticism: Nepal grabs the 126th spot of the latest Transparency International Report out of 174 nations, something that speaks for its governmental integrity and effectiveness. However, slowly the realisation of there having to be an impartially centralised system of distributions surfaced, one that would consider the needs of the entire population as opposed to that of those in mere sight, a task that little by little has been overseen by the local district authorities.
The effort is to this day continuous, but the funds gathered are yet to meet the targeted goal set by the estimates of the United Nations, who called for 423 million dollars to be provided in order to grant a basic set of amenities for individuals who are currently living in camping tents or and makeshift huts. Currently just over 92 million dollars have been raised, a fifth of the needed capital. Distributing the aid continues to be a challenge, especially in the logistical aspect, given that the earthquake severely damaged many of the roads that were at times the only ways to pass aid onto certain villages.
Landslides and aftershocks have left many cars trapped midway and the breakdown of telecommunications has made it challenging to establish contact with villages. Despite this the effort continues and will keep on doing so. Nepal stands before a challenging chapter of its illustrious history, with the worst possibly yet to come due to the monsoonal torrential rains that may affect people’s shelter and the propagation of diseases.
The nation has lost much: scores of people, homes, iconic world heritage sights, crops, businesses, roads and infrastructure. But it hasn’t lost the will to live, a trait characteristic of the Nepali DNA. Few countries are as unprepared to withstand but as willing to endure. They say hope is the last thing someone loses. Nepal never lost it before and if they haven’t now, they never will.