A voice from the field: Oxfam’s donor Eric Gould shares his personal experience from Nepal
Written by Eric Gould.
Eric is a Canadian currently on the ground in Nepal. He is a donor and a strong supporter of Oxfam's work.
My name is Eric Gould. I have been in Nepal for almost two months, and was in Kathmandu during the time of the earthquake, which shook this country to its core. I have been here long enough to fall in love with the culture, and meet many local friends and family. I am in the midst of a 16-month backpacking trip, and planned on travelling all around Nepal. After the earthquake, I had to make the decision to stay or to leave. In the end, I decided I could not abandon this amazing country in its time of need. I am doing all that I can to help Nepal rebuild, but there are many challenges.
It's been two weeks since the earthquake, and evidence of the disaster is everywhere to remind us how much work needs to be done. There are monkeys in the streets that have abandoned the monkey temple after substantial damage, buildings everywhere are broken and unsafe, and tens of thousands are living in makeshift shelters in the streets. It is impossible to ignore. Nepal needs our help.
Millions of people were affected by this earthquake. I have friends who have lost their homes and are still living in community shelters. I have found injured people, including one pregnant woman, while surveying the villages we have been in to volunteer our help. I have personally lost friends. The whole country was affected, in one form or another, by this earthquake. I see it in the eyes of the Nepalese. Many people are still traumatized. Living with a form of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with no direction on where to go from here. Many people are jobless now, as businesses have broken down, markets are occupied and finances are simply not available. I read a statistic that 16,000 schools have been damaged, 5,000 completely destroyed. The school semester has been delayed, so children have no place to go. There is lacking a sense of normality here in Nepal. We cannot begin a rebuilding process until the people can move forward.
The death toll keeps rising, as they are finding more bodies and injured are going untreated. At the time of writing this, the number of confirmed deaths is around 8,000, with over twice as many injured. Millions of people are homeless, living in shelters that likely will not last through the monsoon season. Many of these are pregnant women and girls. There are so many concerns when pregnant women are living out in the open like this. They are often not getting the proper nourishment, as hundreds of thousands of people are going hungry. There is also a big risk of unsafe deliveries, specifically in the remote villages, where there is not yet any medical aid.
We already know that the rate of violence against women and girls is high in Nepal, but in these circumstances, they are even more vulnerable. It has been globally recorded that cases of violence and rape increase in times of natural disaster. There are less safe places for women and girls to sleep, and with police overwhelmed by the clean up process, some men believe they can get away with anything. I have already observed an increase of crime since the time of the earthquake, with a friends shop being broken into, homes being raided when families retreat to the city for aid, etc. Criminals feel they can get away with anything, which puts an increasing risk of rape cases.
Many women and children are also extremely vulnerable to human trafficking in times like these. As Nepal is broken, with 8 million people living displaced in temporary accommodation it is a common idea and need to seek to a better way of life. Women and girls are being promised good jobs and safe homes – this desperation leaves women and children vulnerable to traffickers. Currently on average 58 people a day are trafficked across the Indian border – since the earthquake this number is sure to rise with the increasing desperation and hopelessness of the quakes aftermath. We have to act now to protect the vulnerable people of Nepal. There is not much time before monsoon, so we need to create safe shelters for the displaced. We need to make sure everybody is being fed, as food is harder to obtain in the remote villages. There is a large demand for rice, dal and oil, as supplies are not making their way to the market villages, especially those which are harder to access or are even inaccessible by road. We need to protect the women and girls against violence in times of desperation.
Oxfam has been in Nepal for over 20 years. They have been working here to help the lives before the earthquake, and they will be here long into the future. They have acted fast in the wake of the disaster, providing secure shelters, meals and toilets. Toilets are extremely important when living in camps of so many people, because without proper hygiene the health of everybody would be at risk. Oxfam is making an immediate impact in the recovery, and will be here for the long term rebuilt of this country. Please donate to Oxfam and help rebuild Nepal.