Much like refugees in Europe today, Nepalese survivors of the April 2015 earthquake will be struggling to make it through the winter this year. While promises to help surged immediately after what was one of the biggest natural disasters of our time, aid inevitably faltered after a few months. Shelters may have been built, but none that can be considered close to adequate for the harsh Himalayan winter that is sure to come. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, lowest temperatures in the warmest parts of the Himalayas range from -8˚C to -22˚C, but have been reported to drop to as low as -29˚C in the neighborhood of Mount Everest. These extreme temperatures will make it a priority for families to seek warmth, while they are still awaiting food, medicine and other forms of earthquake relief. The large amounts of snow in the region will also make access to some remote areas extremely difficult. Thus, while these areas have been more severely affected than most by the earthquake of April 25, 2015, they will now face a reduced supply of aid, food and water resources from rescue and humanitarian agencies.
Much less addressed, but perhaps more important, the protests that have recently taken place on the border between Nepal and neighboring India have led to a blockade that has more or less restricted access of all aid materials to the country.
A Nepalese ethnic group with close linguistic and cultural links to India, the Madhesis, protested in hopes of gaining more adequate political and economic representation. The Washington Post claims that these disruptions may have some severe psychological consequences on the children living within these borders, particularly in terms of their education. Above all, however, the blockade that ensued from these protests means that: “Aid groups hoping to transport aid including blankets, jackets and sweaters to these villages have been left with deliveries stuck at the border and their own vehicles without fuel” (CBC, 2015). Furthermore, aspects of daily life in all of Nepal are also compromised as schools shut down, hospitals face delays in procedures due to the lack of medical supplies, and lines to obtain fuel increase as this natural resource, perhaps the most affected by the blockade, becomes less accessible (Washington Post, 2015). Most importantly, however, this lack of resources means that the already insufficient amounts of aid going to earthquake survivors is now suffering an extreme blow, and the situation has been declared a grave one.
At the end of the month of November of this past year, UNICEF issued a statement saying that the children of Nepal were facing grave danger, emphasizing that “more than 3 million children under the age of 5 in Nepal are at risk of death or disease”(UNICEF, 2015). Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, furthers this statement in saying that the lack of medications and vaccines means hypothermia and malnutrition will be leading causes of high child mortality this winter.
This blockade may cause large problems in the attempt to generate recovery in one of the most disadvantaged countries in the world. Some have already pushed both the Nepalese and Indian governments to put an end to it, pointing at obvious negative impacts on the Nepalese economy (TIME, 2015). After the blockade is terminated, however, it will still be largely unknown how many years it will take for the Himalayan region to fully recover from the 2015 earthquake. As mentioned, many regions affected by the earthquake were located in mountainous areas, which are not easily accessed by trucks loading large amounts of aid resources. This type of problem came up again after an earthquake hit Afghanistan on October 26, 2015. Because of the highly remote nature of the areas hit, rescue teams were struggling to measure the exact impact of the quake, and found it even more difficult to carry out their rescue missions effectively (The Guardian, 2015).
As with many other natural disasters, the immediate aftereffect of panic has largely subsided and relief efforts have greatly diminished. Eleven years after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (History.com, 2015) and six years after the earthquake that took place in Haiti (TIME, 2015) the impact of natural disaster is still felt to this day. This shows that although time heals all wounds, its duration is largely undetermined. Nepal may find its “road to recovery” extended well into the next few years.
Bishop, Barry C. "Himalayas - Climate | Mountains, Asia." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web.
Boone, Jon. "Afghanistan Earthquake: Rescue Teams Struggling to Reach Survivors." The Guardian. Islamabad, 28 Oct. 2015. Web.
Gowen, Annie. "Nepal Border Protests Have Led to a Dangerous Humanitarian Crisis." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 3 Dec. 2015. Web.
"Hurricane Katrina." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web.
Laurent, Olivier. "Haiti Earthquake: Five Year After." Time. Time, 12 Jan. 2015. Web.
Press, The Associated. "Nepal's Slow Earthquake Recovery Raises Possibility of Grim Winter." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 06 Nov. 2015. Web.
UNICEF. Nepal: Serious Shortage of Essential Supplies Threatens Millions of Children This Winter - UNICEF. UNICEF. UNICEF, 30 Nov. 2015. Web.
Photo taken from Creative Commons, uploaded by Asian Development Bank