NEPAL: Will We Get To Remote Villages In Time?

Sadly the death toll is rising, from 1,700 to 3,000 and now at the time of this writing 4,600.   This number is expected to rise, and possibly rise dramatically (see issues facing first responders below).  Regarding children, two figures have been reported (both by UNICEF); 1 million children have been put in peril, and upwards of 3 million children have/will be “affected.”  What are the major issues facing first responders; (1) down communications lines, (2) lack of access to remote villages. (3) lack of immediately available supplies and (4) chaos at Kathmandu’s airport.  By Mark Correnti  Photo: Associated Press
Let’s start with this WSJ map:

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You will be hearing a lot about Kathmandu.  While tragic, this city is most accessible to relief workers, especially now with the airport open, albeit a mess.  The unseen needs are in the outlying villages.  In the above map, its 208 km (129 miles) from Kathmandu to Pokhara.  What will be the relief response to all of the outlying areas in between, that are home to 2.5 million people?  Current access to many villages is by footpaths.  Helicopters will be required to make any response, timely.  My concern is that we will not hear about the quality of these remote responses until many months from now, when the report is less sensitive and “watched,” and most importantly, the report will not be a good none.   In Saurpani, an ethnic Gurkha village at the epicenter of Saturday’s quake, Ms. Dhakal said, “we have no shelter, no food and all the bodies are scattered around.” (NYT)  Only now are we hearing about the number of deaths(44 civilians) in school bombings in Gaza from its 50 day war with Israel last year.
A summary of reports:
“There is very limited information coming from rural areas. There is no information beyond Katmandu on collapsed buildings and injuries,” said Unni Krishnan, head of disaster response for U.K.-based aid organization Plan International. “Logistics continue to be a huge challenge.”(WSJ)
Saraf, a former Nepal country director for ACF, foresaw significant problems ahead as the attention moves from Kathmandu to the rural districts. “Firstly, it will be very difficult to get the information about what the impact has been from remote villages you have to walk long distances to reach. Secondly, even once we start to get the information, then the relief efforts to reach those areas with provisions will also be very challenging,” he told IRIN.
The worst-hit villages in the ridges around Katmandu remain a black hole, surrounded by landslides that make them inaccessible even to the country’s armed forces. The Nepali authorities on Monday began airdropping packages of tarpaulins, dry food and medicine into mountain villages, but an attempt to land helicopters was abandoned, said Brig. Gen. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel, an army spokesman. (NYT)
“We need 20,000 tents, 25,000 blankets,” Mr. Timilsina said. “But we are getting 100 tents, 200 blankets, some dry fruits. It is very difficult.” (WSJ)
“Badly damaged roads, landslides and at-times heavy rains that limited the number of helicopter flights in parts of the country prevented search-and-rescue specialists as well as supplies of medicines, water, tents and other critical aid from reaching people in need.” (WSJ)
“We are trying to send rescue teams. We are trying our best to clear the roads,” said Kamal Singh Bam, a spokesman for Nepal’s national police. “There is a problem with distribution to people who are not in Katmandu.”(WSJ)
“Communications posed another challenge, he said. Mr. Bam said Monday that central-government authorities were still unable to establish contact with local officials in some places, including Sindhupalchok, a rugged district about 70 miles from Nepal’s border with China.” (WSJ)

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