Due to its location and variable climatic conditions, Nepal is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, highly vulnerable to different types of natural hazards. Every year these events cause heavy loss of lives and damage to properties. Climate change, environmental degradation and increasing population further exacerbate the impacts of natural disasters. Thousands of refugees who came from Bhutan in the 1990s are still hosted in Nepal. These refugees are not permitted to work and rely on assistance provided by United Nations agencies.
Every year, more than 1 000 people in Nepal are killed by landslides and floods during the monsoon season. There is always the potential threat of earthquakes, glacial lake outbursts, avalanches as well as cold and heat waves. 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 others affected. Hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed as a result of the disasters. In April 2015, central Nepal was struck by the most devastating earthquake in decades, claiming close to 9 000 lives and destroying more than half a million homes.
Nepal also hosts close to 9 000 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. The refugees are not allowed to work and are almost entirely dependent on international humanitarian assistance.
To continue its support for people in need across Nepal, in 2017 the EU humanitarian aid allocated €4 million, bringing the total humanitarian funding in the country to €101 million since 1994. Out of the total funding, €3 million have been committed to initiatives focusing on mitigating risks of natural disasters and enhancing disaster preparedness capacities of vulnerable populations. Key priorities include the strengthening of emergency response capacity of the medical community and networks to cope with mass casualty events and serious disease outbreaks, the promotion of disaster preparedness activities and action plan in the education sector, and increasing preparedness and response capacities of communities in rural and, to a lesser extent so far, in urban areas. In addition, the funds also contribute to the improvement of the preparedness and response capacities of the government of Nepal towards a timely, effectively and targeted response in the aftermath of emergencies. In response to the severe flooding that struck the country in mid-2017, a further €800 000 was made available to address the pressing needs of the most affected families.
Following the 2015 earthquake, the European Commission released €14 million to help address the most urgent needs: emergency shelter, emergency health care, water and sanitation, livelihood support and logistics. The EU funding included €2 million specifically directed towards winterisation needs: blankets, winter clothes and insulation materials. To ensure essential humanitarian assistance would 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, focusing mostly 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 funding to the earthquake victims, including funds for early recovery and rehabilitation. More information on the response to the 2015 earthquake can be found in this factsheet.
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 health care as well as water and sanitation facilities. The European Union also assisted the refugees from Bhutan for more than ten years until 2016. To date, the total aid funding to Nepal has exceeded €101 million since 1994, including over €24 million allocated to disaster preparedness and risk reduction activities in Nepal.