On Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 11:56 local time, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck about 76 km northwest of Kathmandu—the largest earthquake in more than 80 years. The catastrophic earthquake was followed by more than 300 aftershocks greater than magnitude 4.0, with four aftershocks greater than magnitude 6.0 magnitude. To date, over 8,790 people have died and 22,300 injured due to the earthquake. It is estimated that eight million people, almost one-third of Nepal’s population, have been impacted by these earthquakes.
Thirty-one of Nepal’s 75 districts have been affected, out of which 14 were declared ‘crisis-hit’ for the purpose of prioritizing rescue and relief operations; another 17 neighboring districts are partially affected. The devastation is widespread—over half a million houses were destroyed, and in the worst hit areas, entire settlements were swept away by earthquake-triggered landslides and avalanches. Government buildings, heritage sites, schools, health posts, rural roads, bridges, water supply systems, agricultural land, and more have been severely compromised throughout the country.
In addition, the earthquake has undermined recent development gains in the country. Early estimates suggest that an additional 3 percent of the population has been pushed into poverty as a direct result of the earthquake, translating into as many as a million more poor people.
Following the April earthquake, teams from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) quickly mobilized to help with the relief and recovery effort alongside government agencies, civil society groups, major development organizations and other stakeholders. The following are a few areas in which GFDRR funding and expertise is contributing to this complex, ongoing task.
As the first step toward recovery planning, a comprehensive assessment of the earthquake’s impact was undertaken to examine the extent of the damages, losses, and needs. This Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) was led by the Government of Nepal and was jointly support by the Asian Development Bank, European Union, Government of Japan, United Nations, and the World Bank.
Released on June 16, in a record six weeks after the disaster, the PDNA provides an approximation of the overall damages, losses, and needs in each of the 23 sectors and themes covered, as well as the relative impact between sectors and an overall estimate for the Nepalese economy. The PDNA estimates the damage at US$ 5.15 billion, losses at US$ 1.9 billion, and recovery needs at US$ 6.7 billion, roughly a third of the economy. The most heavily-impacted sector by far is housing, which accounts for about three-fifths of damages and half of needs. As the government and its development partners transition from relief to reconstruction, more detailed assessments will be completed at the sectoral levels.
The PDNA’s preliminary estimate is a critical step to organize the recovery effort around specific sectors, prioritize funding, and create a mid- to long-term plan to build back better and restore livelihoods to the millions affected. The PDNA has already informed a nearly half a billion dollar Nepal earthquake support package on behalf of the World Bank. In addition, the speed at which the PNDA was completed, as well as the breadth of sectoral analysis showcases the power of strategic partnerships in damage and loss assessments.
Going forward, the PDNA will help inform the discussion on recovery by highlighting the extent of the damage to the economy and provide suggestions to help the country recover.
The earthquake caused widespread destruction of Nepal’s housing and human settlements—nearly 500,000 houses were destroyed and more than 250,000 were partially damaged. There is a pressing need for specific and accurate information on the damage, which is why GFDRR’s Callable Fund for the recovery process is financing a survey to identify household candidates for reconstruction.
Working with the Government of Nepal and the UN Office for Project Services, survey teams will collect key information, including GPS coordinates and a detailed engineering evaluation, from all households in the 14 most-affected districts (it will expand to remaining affected areas at a later stage). The resulting database will serve as the basis for Nepal’s housing reconstruction program.
Following the Nepal earthquake, GFDRR’s Innovation Lab mobilized immediately to provide technical assistance to the World Bank earthquake response team, putting together recommendations on strategies for the housing damage assessment. The team also facilitated and collected the results from the near-real-time remote damage assessments for the housing sector and mapping of landslide locations. This was the first time a joint effort was made by multiple international geological agencies to map all of the landslides throughout the impacted areas using satellite data. Moving into the monsoon season, monitoring of these landslide locations will be instrumental in reducing further risks from rain-induced landslides.
Through the GFDRR-supported OpenCities program, Kathmandu Living Labs, a regional Innovation Lab in Kathmandu, organized dozens of local and global technologists within hours of the earthquake to fill the information gap in terms of baseline mapping through OpenStreetMap. In total, a record 4,300 volunteers from around the world contributed to this effort. The collected information was leveraged by the Nepal military, the Red Cross, and many other responders providing assistance on the ground.
The Innovation Lab is also providing technical assistance in developing a housing reconstruction dashboard though collaboration with KKL.
The total damages and losses in Nepal’s education sector are estimated at over $300 million, with public school infrastructure accounting for 92% of the total. The GFDRR Global Program for Safer Schools is poised to be a leading partner in the school recovery effort by raising grant resources and offering technical support to increase the safety and improve the quality of its education facilities.
The present plan of action is based upon a build back better approach, aimed at not only implementing a recovery plan but also mitigating the risk of existing and new education facilities to natural hazards. Legal, institutional, cultural and financing dimensions are under discussion in addition to the engineering dimension.
Armed with the support of the international community, Nepal is starting on the long and difficult road to recovery. As they do so, it will be important for the government and development partners to focus on not only rebuilding what was lost, but also to focus on improving the country’s resilience to future disasters Unfortunately, this will not be the last time the region experiences such a challenging test of its resources and readiness. However, GFDRR is working to ensure that Nepal bounces back quickly from this catastrophe, and is better prepared for future events.