UN fund re­leases US$15 mil. for Nepal


The United Na­tions said Tues­day it would draw US$15 mil­lion (13.7 mil­lion eu­ros) from its emer­gency fund to help kick­start re­lief op­er­a­tions in earth­quake-rav­aged Nepal, where thou­sands have al­ready per­ished.

“This will go to sup­port to U.N. agen­cies to meet emer­gency needs that in­clude ... food, wa­ter, med­i­ca­tion, but also lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U. N. hu­man­i­tar­ian agency OCHA.

A U.N. flash fundrais­ing ap­peal to donors will also be launched in com­ing days, he told re­porters in Geneva.

“This is a race against time. It is also a race against a mov­ing tar­get, in the sense that we also do not have a full as­sess­ment of the needs and the re­quire­ments in the ru­ral ar­eas out­side of Kathmandu,” he said.

U.N. hu­man­i­tar­ian chief Va­lerie Amos has ap­pointed OCHA’s res­i­dent co­or­di­na­tor in Nepal, James McGoldrick, to over­see the co­or­di­na­tion of the re­lief re­sponse, Laerke said.

The mas­sive 7.8- mag­ni­tude quake on Satur­day was the Hi­malayan na­tion’s dead­li­est dis­as­ter in more than 80 years, killing over 5,000 peo­ple and caus­ing mas­sive de­struc­tion.

More than 100 peo­ple died in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries such as In­dia and China.

More than 10,000 peo­ple have been in­jured while the U.N. es­ti­mates eight mil­lion peo­ple have been af­fected, in­clud­ing 1.3 mil­lion chil­dren in ur­gent need of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.

In Nepal, there are fears the death toll could jump once res­cuers dis­cover the full ex­tent of dev­as­ta­tion in vil­lages out­side Kathmandu.

Aid Flights Turned Away

Rick Bren­nan, head of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Emer­gency Risk Man­age­ment unit, voiced par­tic­u­lar con­cern about rapidly reach­ing peo­ple with life- threat­en­ing wounds, like head and spinal in­juries, and “what we call crush syn­drome.”

Hos­pi­tals have been over­whelmed, with morgues over­flow­ing and medics work­ing flat out to cope with an end­less stream of vic­tims suf­fer­ing trauma or mul­ti­ple frac­tures.

Bren­nan told re­porters the five ma­jor hos­pi­tals in Kathmandu were still func­tion­ing, although some had been dam­aged, but that WHO feared hos­pi­tals in other dis­tricts may have suf­fered worse dam­age.

Hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies said Mon­day they were pre­par­ing a mas­sive aid op­er­a­tion to the coun­try, such as fly­ing in planeloads full of food, med­i­cal sup­plies, tents and blan­kets.

But they are fac­ing sig­nif­i­cant lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems, in­clud­ing con­ges­tion as well as dif­fi­cult weather and land­ing con­di­tions at the Kathmandu air­port.

“There have been many flights (car­ry­ing aid) on the way to Kathmandu that have been forced to re­turn, sim­ply be­cause there was no way they could land,” Laerke said.

The World Food Pro­gramme said it had a plane loaded and ready in Dubai, which had not yet been able to leave due to over­crowd­ing at the air­port in Nepal.

In­side the coun­try too, get­ting aid out to where it is needed is a chal­lenge, WFP spokes­woman Elis­a­beth Byrs said.

“Roads are un­pass­able be­cause we fear more land­slides and rock­slides,” she told re­porters, adding that the agency was plan­ning to try to use he­li­copters and small planes to get aid to more re­mote ar­eas.

WFP said it planned to pro­vide food as­sis­tance to some 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple in the coun­try in acute need of food over the next three months.

Nor­way an­nounced Tues­day that it will give 15.5 mil­lion eu­ros to the re­lief ef­forts in Nepal, mak­ing it one of the largest con­trib­u­tors so far to the dis­as­ter re­sponse.

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