Canadian Underwriter

Rebuilding Nepal: Canada’s disaster relief team sets up operations

May 5, 2015   by Mike Blanchfield - THE CANADIAN PRESS

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OTTAWA – Canada’s disaster-relief team is now setting up operations in earnest in Nepal, but aid agencies and the Nepalese government warned Monday that a long road of rebuilding after the devastating earthquake lies ahead.

The death toll from the Nepal earthquake stands at 7,300. Photo: Reuters.

“It’s far away; it’s on the other side of the world. It’s going to be easy for people to forget,” said David Morley, president of UNICEF Canada.

“People have really stepped up,” said Michael Messenger, World Vision Canada’s incoming president, but he added: “We are still in the early stage . . . We are looking for more resources.”

The assessment came as Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) took additional steps to ramp up its relief operations in earthquake-ravaged Nepal, where the death toll stands at 7,300.

A third Canadian Forces C-17 transport plane landed in Kathmandu early Monday carrying DART engineering equipment, support vehicles and 18 Canadian Forces personnel, said Maj.-Gen. Charles Lamarre, deputy commander of the Forces joint operations branch.

A fourth C-17 carrying 30 personnel, four all-terrain vehicles, an excavator and supplies was airborne to the Indian capital of New Delhi late Monday afternoon, he added.

After its initial assessments, the DART has decided to set up a camp northeast of Kathmandu in Sindhupalchok region.

The camp will provide medical services to locals, and will co-ordinate a deeper push into Nepal’s Charikot region, Lamarre said.

Messenger, who just returned from five days in Nepal, said serious logistical challenges must be overcome to reach isolated populations.

The focus of his organization is now on helping survivors find shelter, clean water and tending to traumatized children, he said.

Bad weather, in the form of a pending monsoon season, along with an unforgiving mountainous geography and massive damage is also hindering access, said Messenger.

“Aid is getting through, but it’s going far more slowly than we would like” he said.

“You can’t fly a helicopter in the mountains, in the fog.”

A C-17 carrying 30 personnel, four all-terrain vehicles, an excavator and supplies was airborne to the Indian capital of New Delhi late Monday afternoon

In addition to the geographic hurdle, there is a growing risk of water-borne disease, said Morley.

People are living out of doors and are either afraid to – or simply can’t – go home, he said.

“So monsoons come and you risk living in water and living in filth because where’s the black water going to go, where’s the wastewater going to go?”

Morley said it is essential to keep public interest from waning because last week’s quake is the worst since the terrible Haiti tremor of 2010.

Morley said he is happy that half of UNICEF’s $50-million emergency appeal has been met, but much more will have to be raised in the months ahead.

Despite an international outpouring of support, the Nepalese government warned Monday that there’s a huge funding gap that needs to be addressed in the interest of its long-term recovery.

Those suffering most right now are children, who are severely traumatized, say Messenger and Morley.

Morley said some schools appear to have withstood the earthquake and are still standing, which bodes well for getting children back to class in a few weeks and working towards re-establishing some sense of normalcy.

Messenger said child-friendly spaces are being established, and he saw some children filter in to talk to counsellors, and try to express themselves using music or art.

But some children are clearly bearing new emotional scars from the last week’s carnage.

Messenger spoke to one 13-year-old boy who had “this deep fear and loss in his eyes,” and told him he dreaded returning to school.

When Messenger asked him why, he replied:

“I don’t want to see which of my classmates are still missing.”