It’s just over a month since the first devastating earthquake hit Nepal – killing thousands and leaving a trail of destruction in its path.
Measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, the earth-shattering quake reduced villages to rubble and caused untold damage to Kathmandu, the country’s capital.
The disaster was followed by hundreds of aftershocks and a second 7.3-magnitude earthquake on May 12, hindering vital attempts to rebuild and stabilise one of the poorest areas in the world. But help has since streamed in to Nepal from all over the globe, with international aid agency Mercy Corps – whose European headquarters are based in the Capital – among those leading the charge.
And today the organisation praised the big-hearted Edinburgh residents who joined forces to help those affected by the devastation. The Melville Monument in St Andrew Square was turned red to mark the tragedy, and hundreds of pupils from across the Capital wore an item of red clothing to school last month to raise vital funds for the families whose lives have been turned upside down by the earthquakes.
Elsewhere, Starbucks stores across Edinburgh displayed Mercy Corps emergency collection tins at tills and more than 40 volunteers came together over four days to raise £9000 in a series of bucket collections.
Following the disaster, Mercy Corps and the Edinburgh Disasters Response Committee immediately activated their partnership, sending out fundraising e-mails to public service employers across the city, including the NHS and Police Scotland.
Last month, a candlelit vigil led by Lord Provost Donald Wilson was held at the City Chambers, attracting residents eager to pay their respects to those who lost their lives.
Councillor Wilson had earlier lodged an emergency motion at a meeting of the full council to call on local support for the Mercy Corps Nepal Earthquake appeal.
“When an event as devastating as this take place, I believe it is important for residents to feel they have an opportunity to express condolences and provide united support,” he said.
Today, Mercy Corps chiefs revealed the aid organisation has been able to reach 43,910 people in the country to date, thanks to more than 100 staff members in Nepal and donations from supporters.
And in the next few weeks, Mercy Corps teams will reach an additional 75,000 people with emergency supply kits. These families will each receive £45 in cash to use in local markets to buy whatever they need most for recovery.
But Michael McKean, director of programmes at Mercy Corps Europe, said “the need for immediate and long-term assistance” remained urgent in the wake of the initial disaster and the second earthquake on May 12.
He said: “The natural disaster disproportionately affected – and will continue to impact – poorer residents of Nepal.
“Homes that had been built out of mud and stone were largely destroyed. Nepal’s most vulnerable residents have ongoing needs for assistance.
“With the traditional June start of the monsoon season fast approaching, we worry about further misfortune throughout Nepal.
“Due to shifted land masses and a partial collapse of the Lirung glacier in the north, ice melt and resulting floods could be significant this year. Mercy Corps’ expertise in flood response will be in demand in the coming weeks and months.”
He added: “Stimulating the economy will be critical to Nepal’s long-term recovery. Mercy Corps will transition our response from delivering emergency kits to providing families with cash that they can use to purchase what they need most through local markets.
“This helps shop owners get back on their feet, and also gives families the power to prioritise their own needs”
Throughout the aid effort, Mercy Corps concentrated on the hardest-hit areas in the country, including Gorkha, Lamjung, Dhading, Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, and focused on reaching “invisible” villages that were overlooked in initial expeditions.
And the drive to help in the aftermath of the disaster started immediately, with teams out delivering kits to families in need just two days after the first earthquake hit.
Emergency supply kits include tarpaulins, rope, cooking utensils, hygiene supplies, blankets, clothing, water purification liquid, water containers, sleeping mats and solar lamps, along with large tents for local schools and community groups and food items such as rice, oil, sugar and salt.
Over the coming weeks the organisation will deliver 600 large tents to local school and community centres. With the rainy season approaching and many buildings destroyed, these tents will allow teachers to resume classes and give children a safe place to play.