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Water and sanitation infrastructure has been severely damaged by the earthquake, leaving many people without clean water and nowhere safe to go to the toilet. In these conditions, there is high risk of an outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhea that could lead to a second humanitarian crisis in the affected regions.
Over the weekend, WaterAid worked with long-time partner organizations to deliver water purification tablets to 4,565 people that will last for the next 10 days. Included in this number were 1,300 children whose families were given water purification supplies as part of a Ministry of Health emergency vaccination program.
WaterAid expects to reach thousands more in coming days as further supplies are received, including emergency community water filters, water purification tablets, hygiene kits containing buckets, soap, cloths and sanitary napkins. Additional work is underway to install emergency sanitation measures such as pit latrines and trenches.
Bhaktapur camp, 13 kilometers east of Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: WaterAid Nepal
Broadcasting hygiene messages
WaterAid Nepal has also launched a series of radio broadcasts that urge survivors to take extra precautions with water, personal hygiene and in toilet use to help prevent the spread of cholera, typhoid and other waterborne diseases. The messages, carried by national radio, urge listeners to boil milk and water before drinking, wash hands with soap frequently and properly dispose of human waste.
“We are and remain an organization that is focused on development work, but the scale of need following the earthquake is such in Nepal that we and our partners feel compelled to act. We know that we must act now to try and avoid a second disaster in the form of an outbreak of disease such as cholera,” said Tom Palakudiyil, WaterAid’s Head of Region for South Asia.
“WaterAid has a long history of working in the affected areas. Through our partners, we have an established network through which we can help provide emergency water and sanitation.”
Helping Nepal rebuild
Recently ranked by GuideStar’s Philanthropedia as the number one international non-profit working in the water and sanitation sector, WaterAid has been active in Nepal since 1987. An estimated 60,000 people have been affected in the communities where WaterAid works, including Gorkha district, the epicenter of the earthquake. More than 7,500 people are now known to have died, with the UN estimating more than 8 million people have been affected.
“We must not underestimate the huge challenges ahead. Many of the affected areas are remote and had very little infrastructure before [the earthquake]. Much of what infrastructure there is will have been destroyed. Getting to the affected districts will be challenging, as will bringing in the equipment needed to rebuild,” commented Palakudiyil.
“But WaterAid is here for the long term and committed to helping help rebuild Nepal, better and stronger than before.”