Nepal Team Member Recalls Destruction

I have never strongly understood the importance of our organisation's work until this devastating emergency. Despite all my grief for the situation the earthquake has caused, I feel privileged to be here in Nepal, being able to make an impact.

I Instantly Felt the Need to Contribute and Help

My name is Enja Sæthren I am a fully funded UN Youth Volunteer from Norway and this is my story - I was on a field trip to the see the worst affected districts of the 2014 flooding in Nepalgjung. We were in the middle of a bridge when a woman in front of us was suddenly thrown from her motorbike. My Nepali driver instantly understood what was happening - an earthquake had hit Kathmandu Valley.

It was hard to think clearly; first we ran out of the car and stood near a pole, but as the quakes grew stronger we understood that we had to cross the bridge. We decided to head towards the WFP Nepal office. On our way we saw buildings falling apart and desperate people running in the streets. When we finally reached the office, one of the security guards was frozen with shock. We quickly got her to the hospital and returned to the office.

During the next several hours many aftershocks followed and more and more people from different UN agencies came to seek protection. As it got colder we stayed in the UN vehicles and tried to connect with other colleagues through our radios.

Surviving the Damage Makes Me Feel Fortunate

 My house is located in Patan Durbar Square, the temple area that was badly affected. I tried to enter the house to fetch my computer and work documents, but the area was so damaged that I could not get through. I called the Nepali family I live with; they were fortunately okay, but they told me to not come home. During the night I moved locations several times, seeking a safe spot. However, Kathmandu is a city of tall, old buildings not made for earthquakes. The night was marked by insecurity and worry over the humanitarian crisis I would have to face the following morning.

The next day I went around to assess the disaster and the need for support. Looking at all the damaged buildings and talking with many people who are now homeless, some of them with family members who are injured or dead, made me feel very fortunate. Though it has been concerning not knowing where to take shelter, at least I have my family safe back home in Norway. I instantly felt a very strong need to contribute and do something constructive, rather than just moving from place to place, seeking protection.

Relief Hub Aided in Preparing for Disaster

It has taken some time to assess what and where the most demanding needs will be. Everything was very chaotic in the beginning; even though we all knew it probably was going to happen during the year, we could not possibly prepare fully for it. However, WFP's Relief Hub in Nepal, inaugurated only last month as part of WFP’s emergency preparedness work, aided in a more rapid response to the Nepal earthquake.

The worst part is the lack of knowledge and communication. In most natural disasters, locals tend to have a lot of insight about what will happen and how to wisely prepare and act. However, with earthquakes occurring every 80 years, it leaves little predictability in how to respond when the moment arrives. Initially, we thought we would have two big earthquakes and then 12 smaller aftershocks, but the aftershocks have been much stronger than any of us had foreseen, one of them at a 6.7 magnitude. Continuously, there are rumors about what will happen next. A lot of people are still very afraid.

I am worried about the possible social and health crisis in the aftermath. The hygienic conditions for those living on the streets is very severe. What will happen when their medical status worsens, as hospitals are already at maximum capacity treating the injured?  How will people react to shortages of food and necessities? Furthermore, how can we provide housing to all of those who have lost their homes?

WFP dedicated staff and emergency members, working on little sleep and nothing more than crackers, have been relocated to the airport where we are arranging the distribution of food and relief hub operations. The challenges we face are minimal compared to those greatly affected.

WFP Activates Emergency Protocol

The Nepalese government has officially declared a state of emergency and has asked for international humanitarian assistance. In response, WFP's specialised emergency teams have arrived and begun food distribution in less than 72 hours after the disaster struck. As of Monday, WFP has already dispatched 10 mt of rice, pulses and high-energy biscuits in the most affected areas - for now three Village Development Committees in the Gorkha District. It is precisely in a crisis like this that WFP’s multilateral (un-earmarked) funding is crucial – before an appeal is finalized – to respond quickly and efficiently to greatest needs.  Norway, among Nordic countries, is a leading contributor to WFP’s multilateral funds as well as being a top donor to the Immediate Response Account.

How You Can Help

WFP needs US $116.5 million to provide food for 1.4 million people for three months.

  • Please donate today and help get lifesaving food reach families who need us the most.​