We have been receiving a number of short progress reports from the first phase of our deployment in Nepal. They are summarised below to give our readers an insight into what it is like on the ground during the first stages of a deployment.
Wednesday 13 May
Dave Tuzewski, Deployment Leader, arrived in the afternoon. Immediate problems involved sorting out the basics: contacting our partners given you cannot buy a sim card on the streets; getting cash for daily expenses given all the ATMs are down ; waiting a very long time for luggage to appear. Eventually he managed to get to his provisional base some 35 Km outside Kathmandu at the Community Development and Relief Agency Nepal [CDRA].
Once at CDRA, Dave was able meet our local partners (Rotary Club Dhulikhel, District 3292) and associated contacts. Discussions focussed on local regulations and overall priorities for the deployment. Plans were put in place to get sim cards and, more critically, how to transfer deployment funds to ensure that it arrives both quickly and intact.
Dave commented that, while damage was not extensive in the area he was staying, people were very nervous and many were sleeping outside. The small aftershocks that are still taking place together with the nightly dog chorus only increased the tension.
Thursday 14 May
Dave spend the day meeting with those involved nationally for coordinating the aid effort. It was a important lesson learnt from the Asian Tsunami that aid agencies must coordinate their work to achieve best effect. Accordingly, under the UN, aid agencies are organised in clusters of activity and our work normally falls under two clusters: Shelter and Non-Food items; Water and Sanitation.
Dave spent the morning in a meeting with the CDO Chief District Administrative Officer who was responsible for coordinating the local clusters. In the afternoon, he headed for Kathmandu to meet Nugal, the District Secretary and Disaster Co-ordinator for Rotary who also linked in with the national clusters.
As a result of these meetings, Dave was able to plan site visits to 4 potential villages (Pipalchaur, Patlekhet, Baluwa, Hoshe) which were most likely to best benefit from the type of support Disaster Aid International can provide; we focus our efforts on working with entire communities so that they can both participate in and take control of their recovery to ensure that their needs are genuinely met.
Friday 15 May
Despite a puncture, getting lost and the very difficult terrain, Dave managed to identify three communities as priority for support. In each village, virtually all the buildings had been damaged and had been no other non-food help provided to date.
Peter Hazell, the second member of our Disaster Aid Response Team (DART) arrived safely from the UK in the evening.
Saturday 16 May
Dave and Peter spent most of the day coordinating the arrival or planned arrival of freight to support our deployment.
Sunday 17 May
Dave and Peter made the second field trip to remaining areas that could not be reached on the previous Friday. The worst damage they had seen so far was at Hoshe with almost all of the 893 family homes being totally destroyed in 56 seconds.
A considerable amount has been achieved by Dave and Peter over these past few days. Potential problems have been identified and steps put in place to resolve them. More importantly, communities were we can provide effective and efficient support have been identified very quickly. Furthermore, some of the operational issues (eg the possible need to invest in land clearance before providing shelter, the need to disperse shelter to adapt to the mountainous terrain) have also been flagged up.
We wish Dave and Peter the best of luck. It is difficult to overestimate the pressure that these two will be under given that they will always be aware that small problems experienced on the ground can have a significant impact on the life chances of those so desperate in need of our help.