Nepal earthquake: Kathmandu welcomes and thanks India for rescue operations, says UN

United Nations: A top UN official has lauded India’s first response and reconstruction assistance to Nepal following a devastating earthquake in April that killed nearly 9,000 people, saying the help has been welcomed by Kathmandu.

“India and China are very very present in the reconstruction effort. We have seen the Indian armed forces providing the first response,” UN Development Programme Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Magdy Martínez-Solimán told reporters during a briefing about his mission to areas of devastation in Nepal and “daunting challenges.”

He said the Nepali airport was “literally occupied” by the Indian military aircraft and helicopters that provided support to the Nepalese armed forces after the April 25 temblor.

The first flight from India was dispatched with relief material within four hours of the quake and there were nonstop sorties of aircraft carrying 550 tonnes of relief material.

The Indian Army operated 13 helicopters from Kathmandu and Pokhara and 16 teams of the National Disaster Reaction Force, comprising over 700 trained personnel, were deployed.

Additionaly, 18 army engineering team were deployed and the Indian Army had set up three field hospitals and the Air Force deployed a rapid action team.

The senior UN development official drew attention to the post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction needs of more than 500,000 homes and cultural heritage sites in the rural areas.

Martínez-Solimán said the “good news” is that large infrastructure structures such as the main airport, dams, communications and electricity networks had largely survived the twin earthquakes that hit Nepal.

He said an official assessment of the damage is underway and would be ready by early July.

He described “immense” damage to homes in rural areas, as well as to cultural and historical heritage such as temples, upon which Nepal’s economy depends.

The UNDP official said his agency estimated that USD175 million was needed to reconstruct the homes, which reflected a solid case for “building back better.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 2.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance with over 860,000 people in immediate need due to loss of shelter, limited road access and poverty.

The total number of casualties now stands at 8,669 with 384 people still missing, OCHA said.

The UNDP official said that the Chinese help in rescue and relief efforts has also been appreciated.

Martínez-Solimá’s visit was part of UNDP’s push to hash out a recovery and reconstruction plan for Nepal that protects and restores infrastructure, services and livelihoods, even as immediate efforts to meet people’s most basic needs continue.

Meanwhile, a month after the first of the two earthquakes hit Nepal, the UN Children’s Fund warned some 70,000 children are at risk of malnutrition and require urgent support, including 15,000 children in 14 of the worst-hit districts who need therapeutic foods –- like nutrient-rich peanut paste -– for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

UNICEF’s Representative in Nepal Tomoo Hozumi said in a statement that the agency is working “double speed with our partners to provide urgent feeding and care to protect the lives of these children and to build their resistance against diseases, especially water-borne diseases, during the upcoming monsoon season.”

UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nepal Jamie McGoldrick, said “substantial progress” to reach the survivors has been made and “considering the conditions and complexities, we are now well-positioned to assist all the affected communities.”

The World Food Programme said nearly 2 million people have received food assistance and a new phase of response dubbed ‘Operation Mountain Express’ is underway to reach people in high-altitude villages.

The coming monsoon season in Nepal is adding further urgency to relief operations because heavy rains expected from June will curtail access to remote rural areas.

PTI

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