More than 4,000 people are reported to have died in the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday, with the Caritas network, one of the largest humanitarian networks in the world, working around the clock to deliver aid to those affected.
Caritas Nepal, with the assistance of Caritas Australia staff members and the Caritas network, have been distributing food and tarpaulins to offer temporary shelter and protection from the rain and cold temperatures. Many are sleeping on the street or in open spaces in the rain and cold, following the worst earthquake in 80 years.
“I have seen a lot of destruction. So many buildings collapse and cracked. I saw a number of bodies on the street. People are still trapped in buildings and we don’t know whether they are dead or alive,” said Caritas Nepal Director, Father Pius Perumana SJ.
Caritas Australia, the international aid and development agency of the Australian Catholic Church, has worked in Nepal for decades and has three staff members currently in Kathmandu who were on the ground when the quake struck. All three jumped into action after being thrown into the major humanitarian emergency.
Caritas Australia’s Online Editor, Lilian Chan says, “At the moment, our Caritas network is supporting the Caritas Nepal team as they prioritise emergency shelter, trauma counselling, food, clean water and the hygiene materials they desperately need. We will work through the Church network and Caritas Nepal’s strong local connections to reach some of the most marginalised communities in the country.”
“As the emergency response continues we will be working with communities to rebuild their livelihoods in the long term.”
Ms Chan says, “Since the earthquake struck, I have had the opportunity to speak to people who have been evacuated or lost their homes completely. Their experience is humbling. I have been overwhelmed and inspired by people’s generosity, ingenuity and resilience.
“They are making do with what they have and courageously doing everything they can to look after themselves and their families. But rain and the cold nights are making the situation even more difficult, and food, water and basic necessities are scarce.”
Santosh Kumar Magar, 29 years old, is a teacher and one of the youth of the Assumption Church in Kathmandu. When the earthquake hit, he was attending the ordination of one of the new priests in Okhaldhunga, a remote part of Eastern Nepal.
“It was almost 11 o’clock when the earthquake came. I came out of the room, and saw 2-3 houses falling down around me. The people were saved because all the villagers were gathered for the ordination program. It was a terrible experience.”
Ms Chan says, “We have been touched, and we are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Australian and international community. These acts of solidarity – prayers, assistance and donations – will bolster the communities I have met, as they face the task of building back their lives.”
Donate to Caritas Australia’s Nepal Earthquake Appeal www.caritas.org.au/nepalearthquake or phone 1800 024 413. For on the ground interviews or photos contact Media Advisor Nicole Clements on 0408 869 833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.