The devastating earthquake in Nepal has reportedly left more than 7,000 people dead and tens of thousands more injured. Ten days after the disaster, rescuers are still searching for survivors among the rubble and the intensity of the earthquake was so strong that it caused a deadly avalanche near Mount Everest. Ozlem Ergun, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern University, discusses the aid response to the region and the challenges humanitarian groups might face.
When asked about the primary focus of rescue and humanitarian groups in the coming days in Nepal, she elucidated, “Search and rescue, water, food, and shelter are on the top of first response lists for these types of emergencies.” However, given that this was a high-injury disaster, one of the main focal points were recognised as bringing in equipment and healthcare workers to treat the injured. In the first few weeks after the Haitian earthquake, there were operating tables under tarps where healthcare workers were trying to save lives and limbs.
The most significant problem that rescue efforts encountered in Nepal was that it is a hard place to get to. The unusually harsh geography makes the inflow of materials and people challenging. Also, given that Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, it has minimal infrastructure, to begin with. One of the hardest things to do will be taking care of the injured, given the nature of the disaster. One of the challenges after a large-scale disaster is matching what is being sent in with what is needed. Unfortunately, not only will outsiders send in unnecessary items and clog the already damaged logistics infrastructure, but in the past, aid agencies have also brought in too many of certain things while not bringing in enough of others due to a lack of coordination. However, given the advances in technology, the coordination of large-scale agencies is much better now. Using social media and setting up matching sites where demand and supply of items can be matched will make aid delivery much more efficient.