Due to its location and variable climatic conditions, Nepal is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Every year, these events cause heavy loss of life and damage to properties. Climate change and an increasing population further exacerbate the impacts of natural disasters. The European Union continuously supports initiatives that reduce the risks of natural disasters and improve the disaster preparedness capacities of vulnerable populations. In addition, the commission finances the provision of urgent services such as emergency shelter, healthcare, and water and sanitation.
Every year, more than 1 000 people in Nepal are killed by landslides and floods during the monsoon season. The potential threat of earthquakes, glacial lake outbursts, avalanches, and cold and heat waves always looms large. According to the United Nations, Nepal is the 11th most vulnerable country to earthquakes, and Kathmandu the most at-risk city. Most recently, in mid-August 2017, large parts of Nepal were hit by what was considered the worst flooding in the last 15 years, leaving over 140 people killed and more than 1.7 million affected. Back in April 2015, central Nepal was struck by the most devastating earthquake in decades, which claimed close to 9 000 lives and destroyed more than half a million homes.
Nepal also currently hosts 7 500 refugees from Bhutan, who live in camps. In the early 1990s, more than 108 000 refugees from Bhutan – approximately 20% of Bhutan's population – arrived in Nepal and started living in camps run by the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR). Thanks to a third-country resettlement process, most of the refugees are now living in other countries. However, following the conclusion of the programme at the beginning of 2018, these remaining 7 500 refugees will stay in Nepal, where they are not allowed to work and are almost entirely dependent on international humanitarian assistance.
The European Union is committed to continue its support for those in needs across Nepal. In 2018, the EU allocated €2 million in humanitarian assistance to the country, bringing the total humanitarian funding in Nepal to €103 million since 2001. The funding is committed to initiatives focusing on mitigating the risks of natural disasters and enhancing the disaster preparedness capacities of vulnerable populations. Key priorities included: strengthening the emergency response capacity of the medical community and networks to cope with mass casualty events and serious outbreak disease incidents; promoting disaster preparedness activities and action plans in the education sector; and increasing preparedness and response capacities of communities in rural and urban areas. In addition, the funds also contributed to the improvement of the preparedness and response capacities of the government of Nepal towards a timely, effective and targeted response in the aftermath of emergencies.
Following the 2015 earthquake, the EU provided €14 million in emergency aid to address the most urgent needs: emergency shelter, emergency healthcare, water and sanitation, livelihood support, and logistics. This EU funding included €2 million specifically directed towards winterisation needs, including blankets, winter clothes and insulation materials.
To ensure that essential humanitarian assistance will continue to be delivered to the earthquake victims, the EU provided a total of €2.4 million to support relief operations in 2016 and 2017. This funding focused on a “Build Back Better” approach to shelter reconstruction through the building of “model houses” that are most resilient to earthquakes. Overall, the European Commission contributed close to €150 million in humanitarian aid to the earthquake victims, including funds for early recovery and rehabilitation.
During Nepal’s internal conflict, and up until 2011, EU humanitarian actions totalling €35 million supported thousands of conflict-affected people, especially in rural areas, by providing healthcare in addition to water and sanitation facilities. The EU also assisted refugees from Bhutan for more than ten years until 2016. To date, the total aid funding to Nepal exceeds €103 million since 2001, including over €26 million allocated to disaster preparedness and risk reduction activities.