Czech Republic sending rescue team and aid workers to Nepal

Bhaktapur, Nepal, April 26, 2015, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic has joined international efforts in aid of Nepal where a devastating earthquake killed close to 4,000 people over the weekend. The government is sending a 36-strong emergency team of firefighters, doctors and nurses to assist with rescue operations over the next fortnight, while humanitarian organizations have sent groups of aid workers to the region and opened accounts for public donations. Among the first Czech NGOs to respond to the natural disaster was People in Need. I spoke to the head of its humanitarian program Marek Štys about the latest developments.

Bhaktapur, Nepal, April 26, 2015, photo: CTK
“We currently have a 3-member team on the ground in Kathmandu and the fourth team member is arriving on Wednesday morning. The task for the first few hours or for the first day is to plug into the coordination in Kathmandu because in similar situations – as was with the tsunami in Haiti – ground coordination with other humanitarian partners is a cornerstone for successful activities in the field. In the next phase – and I hope that will start on Wednesday – we will be sending teams into the areas most stricken by the earthquake. Our primary focus will be on the district of Gorkha, which lies roughly 80 kilometers west of Kathmandu and was at the epicenter of the earthquake. We have managed to reach by phone a few of the affected villages and the picture seems to be really devastating. In some villages roughly 90 percent of the houses were destroyed, so we expect a great deal of material damage. We are, of course, following the rise of the death toll in the media and from previous experience we estimate that the toll will continue to rise at least during the first week when information from the remote areas and mountain valleys that are currently cut off emerges. We hope that the number of casualties will not go much higher but let us see what the coming days will bring. “

What kind of help is most urgently needed right now –what will you be distributing?

Kathmandu, Nepal, April 25, 2015, photo: CTK
“Right now it is definitely rescue and medical assistance. We are not a rescue organization and rescue efforts are done primarily by the Nepalese themselves or in some cases by international teams arriving in Kathmandu, but we will try to find a synergy with the Nepalese medical system – doctors and volunteers who are providing first aid. I remember in 2006 in Pakistani Kashmir that even 10 days after the earthquake we were rescuing people with open wounds and missing limbs from the remote mountain valleys. So this will be the most urgent help in the first seven, ten days. In the next phase drinking water and food will become major concerns, distribution of purification tablets, distribution of jerry cans, etc – that is something we will be looking into. And then in the coming weeks and months it will definitely be emergency shelter. The monsoon season is just a few weeks away, the whole summer season will be very rainy in Nepal and will complicate the situation of those who lost their houses so we will try to look into the distribution of tents, tarpaulins and basis materials so that people can find some shelter. I think this will keep the whole humanitarian community occupied in the coming months.”

People in Need is releasing one million crowns immediately I understand –is that what the money will be used for –and have you opened an account for people to donate?

Kathmandu, Nepal, April 27, 2015, photo: CTK
“Yes, the one million crowns we have released is an initial contribution to finance the teams on the ground and launch the first response but of course we will be relying significantly on our public collection SOS Nepal. I know that many Czechs have travelled to Nepal, toured it extensively and have a personal relationship with the country and I sincerely hope they will contribute to this cause and of course we will use the donations as effectively as possible.”

For information on the SOS Nepal bank account please go to www.clovekvtisni.cz The Czech branch of the Red Cross, and the NGOs Caritas and ADRA have also opened accounts in aid of Nepal.