Reestablishing normality

By | News & Politics
Mr Ben Reese, AusAID representative learns first-hand the processes of reconstructing a school building in an effort to make it more earthquake proof. Jana Bikash Secondary School, Matatirtha, AusAID Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo by Jim Holmes for AusAID. Credit@Department of Foreign Affairs.

Thousands of schools have begun to reopen in Nepal following April’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake, with many of the schools having been rebuilt on a temporary basis. The initial aim is for lessons to focus on group activities to help children move beyond the recent events. A month on from the earthquake the United Nations has called for the world to provide more food and shelter for those most affected in Nepal. Equally, the Nepalese government has appealed for an increase in direct aid funding to the country.

The earthquake has led to the passing of more than 8,000 people and has affected many buildings within Nepal. According to the United Nations’ Nepal Situation Report, between the 25 and 29 May 103’686 cases were treated with 31’707 patients being admitted to hospitals. Equally, heavy equipment has begun to be pre-positioned in areas where landslides might be expected. Some funding has also been made available to gain agricultural inputs for the coming planting season. Furthermore, numerous organisations and countries have provided aid in Nepal by sending supplies or personnel. According to the Asian Development Bank, the Nepalese government is also planning to open 15,000 temporary learning centres throughout the country.

According to UNICEF’s representative in Nepal, Tomoo Hozumi, “going to school also allows children to regain a vital sense of routine that can help them come to terms with their experiences.” The last 25 years saw a significant increase in the number of children enrolled in primary school education from 64 per cent in in 1990 to more than 95% today, according to UNICEF. This increase in educational provision within the country is seen by some as an important trend to maintain following on from the earthquake. The reopening of schools across Nepal aims to hopefully provide a method back into education for children whilst also giving therapeutic benefits in the form of counselling regarding events they may have experienced.

The United Nations requested US$423 million and, as of 29 May 2015, has received 24% of this. Numerous aid organisations have reportedly been active in Nepal since the earthquake, providing important relief and support to those affected by the recent events. The movement to providing basic services to those within the country might highlight the changing focus of aid within Nepal. Equally, with technological advancements, the provision of aid is becoming swifter and increasingly effective although countries such as Nepal do provide logistical challenges due to their terrain.

Events such as April’s earthquake could possibly lead to improved responses to similar events and also increase effectiveness in creating infrastructure in Nepal that is more secure. For example, following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Indian Ocean Tsunami warning system was established, which greatly improved the awareness and response times for future events in the same area according to UNESCO. The recent events in Nepal might have a comparable outcome, with possible changes in the way in which the country is prepared for earthquakes. Furthermore, redevelopment may actually lead to improved infrastructure and buildings more capable to withstand earthquakes.

The incident of the Nepal earthquake may improve the way in which aid organisations respond to similar events. For example, initially a challenge for the aid groups was how to facilitate such large amounts of aid and supplies with Nepal’s modest airport and infrastructure. Whilst a quarter of the UN aid target has been met there is a continued push for the rest of the target to be achieved. The reopening of schools in Nepal may be indicative of the beginning of a movement towards normality. Although Nepal may also experience larger, varied changes that may better prepare it for the future.

How may this improve the international response to similar events?

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