Cash and sympathy pour into devastated Nepal

Emergency: Nepalis grapple with the impact of the earthquake — but they will need help © PA

People in Nepal face the aftermath of the earthquake that killed thousands and ruined buildings and infrastructure. Emergency appeals have been launched — but how much do they say about us?

Buildings in Nepal tend to be flimsy and tightly packed together. So when Saturday’s massive earthquake hit, houses and shops crumbled. One observer said they had ‘toppled like cards’. Aid workers now say that hundreds of thousands of Nepalis are sleeping on the streets, as even those whose homes remain intact refuse to trust their ability to withstand powerful aftershocks.

They are the lucky ones — the death toll, already in the thousands, continues to rise as bodies are pulled from under the wreckage of ruined buildings — but they remain in grave danger, exposed to the elements for several nights while torrential rain is forecast. Some are being treated on the streets as hospital beds in the capital, Kathmandu, are full. The charity Unicef says that nearly one million children have been ‘seriously affected’ by the tragedy.

With horrifying descriptions and images of the disaster dominating news coverage all over the world, Nepal’s plight has aroused the sympathy of the world. And the charities tackling the emergency are eager to capitalise on this fellow feeling. The Disasters Emergency Committee has launched an appeal for money to provide shelter, clean water, sanitation and other necessities to those affected. Governments around the world have promised to give money and a logjam of aeroplanes waits to land at Kathmandu international airport with supplies.

Emergency relief funds are often spectacularly successful. When a massive earthquake hit the Caribbean island of Haiti in 2010 — eventually killing an estimated 220,000 or more — around £5.6bn was pledged worldwide to a variety of relief efforts by governments and individuals. But not all the money reached Haiti, suggesting questions over the level of commitment of those who promised it.

If you would like to donate to the appeal, please follow the link to the DEC website in the expert links.

No quick fixes

The success of appeals will hearten those who believe in the power of human empathy for others. When people suffer, the best of humanity often emerges. The fact that some are willing to go to devastated areas, and others to fund their efforts, shows that it is within our nature to help others in distress. When stories of human fallibility seem common, it is good to know that we are capable of being better than we may think.

But to have their intended effect, these philanthropic feelings must last beyond the initial burst of empathy. This tragedy has ruined much of Nepal’s infrastructure; the immediate emergency will soon be replaced by a long-term rebuilding operation. The true test of our empathy, some say, will arise over the months and years to come, when the news cameras have moved on.

You Decide

  1. If you had £30 to give to charity today, would you donate to Nepal? Or something else?
  2. Is giving money the best way to relieve the suffering of others?

Activities

  1. In groups, design a poster, leaflet or email to raise money for the DEC appeal for emergency relief funds in Nepal. If you think you’ve done a good job, distribute it among your family or in your school.
  2. Find an area in the world that has NOT had much media exposure but where many people are suffering. Write an article for a newspaper explaining why the public should pay more attention to it.

Some People Say...

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.”

Meryl Streep

What do you think?

Q & A

An earthquake only lasts a few seconds — why does the impact last so much longer?
Those few seconds — and the aftershocks which are still happening — have destroyed buildings, power cables, water and sewage pipes, roads and railways and left dead bodies. This leaves people without essentials and increases the chance of disease spreading. With shops unable to open and roads destroyed, food shortages are very likely. And Nepal is remote and mountainous, which makes providing relief harder.
What about Mount Everest? Hasn’t it been affected?
Everest is on the border between Nepal and Tibet, and the most popular climbing routes are on the Nepalese side. At least 18 climbers are reported killed in the avalanches resulting from the earthquake; and unfortunately that number will probably rise.

Word Watch

Saturday’s massive earthquake
The epicentre of the quake (magnitude 7.9 on the Moment Magnitude Scale, which is more accurate than the Richter scale for major quakes) was 50 miles from Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital; the seismic activity took place close to the earth’s surface, making it feel more powerful on the ground. It has also caused casualties in China, India and Bangladesh.
Disasters Emergency Committee
The DEC brings together aid charities when they believe there is an urgent need for a response to a disaster. It coordinates the actions of 13 charities so that they work together in the best way possible.
Governments
The UK government has pledged £5m to help to relieve the suffering of those affected.
Haiti
The 12 January 2010 earthquake which hit Haiti was magnitude 7.0 — less powerful than that in Nepal but still ‘major’. It killed many thousands, displacing around 1.5m people from their homes. Many deaths came from problems which followed the earthquake, such as an outbreak of cholera, rather than the initial event; Nepalis will be concerned about the risk of similar problems.

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