Due to its location and variable climatic conditions, Nepal is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Climate change and an increasing population further exacerbate the impacts of natural hazards, which each year cause heavy loss of life and damage to property.
The EU supports disaster preparedness initiatives to protect vulnerable populations. Even if Nepal do not require humanitarian assistance regularly, we support humanitarian emergency interventions in case of sudden disasters.
Every year, during the monsoon season, landslides and floods kill hundreds of people in Nepal. 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 in the world. Kathmandu, the capital, is the most at-risk city. Climate change also leads to a rise in the frequency and intensity of natural hazards, such as flash floods and landslides. This adds to the people’s burdens, especially for those most vulnerable.
Since mid-April, Nepal has been struggling with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic after several months of relatively low cases. Despite having a small population of just over 29 million, Nepal has become one of the countries reporting the highest daily number of cases.
The rapid surge of COVID-19 cases has overwhelmed the national healthcare system. Nepal has reported shortages of intensive care facilities, key medical treatment equipment, and supplies such as ventilators, liquid oxygen tanks, oxygen generation plants and testing kits. Only 16% of the total population has been vaccinated so far. Livelihoods of the people have been seriously affected by the pandemic.
The EU is committed to continuing its support for those in need across Nepal. In 2021, the EU has allocated €7 million in humanitarian assistance to the country, bringing the total humanitarian funding to over €114 million since 2001. Of this funding, more than €32 million supports disaster preparedness and risk reduction activities.
In response to the worsening COVID-19 situation, we dedicate a large portion of this year’s funding to supporting the country’s efforts in battling the pandemic. This includes the providing essential equipment and supplies such as oxygen equipment, home care kits, diagnostics kits, and protective equipment.
Our 2021 funding will also support clinical monitoring and referrals to hospitals for home-isolated cases through telemedicine services. These services allow patients to communicate with a healthcare professional remotely, as opposed to physically visiting a doctor’s office or hospital.
Parts of the funding will also focus on preparing healthcare systems for future COVID-19 surges. This includes the management of COVID-19 cases in health facilities, isolation centres and other points of entry, as well as addressing protection concerns stemming from the measures to counter the pandemic.
In addition, the EU has activated its Civil Protection Mechanism. Through the Mechanism, the EU and its Member States have urgently airlifted much-needed medical items, including surgical facemasks, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, gloves, and isolation tents.
Due to increased disaster risks posed by the climate crisis, EU funding in Nepal has focused on supporting initiatives in recent years. They aim to strengthen the disaster preparedness of local institutions and assist them in programme implementation.
Key priorities include strengthening the emergency response capacity of rural and urban municipal authorities to manage natural hazards such as floods, landslides, fires and earthquakes. One of the programmes focuses on assessing the risk of future floods and assisting the communities before they occur. The funds also improve the preparedness and response capacities of the government towards a timely, effective and targeted response in the aftermath of emergencies.
The EU provides humanitarian emergency assistance in case of sudden disasters. For example, we provided assistance when widespread monsoon floods struck several South Asian countries, including Nepal, in mid-2020.
On that occasion, the EU mobilised €150,000 in emergency aid to address the most pressing needs of those affected. The aid focuses on providing emergency shelter materials, essential household items, as well as access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
The EU has been present in Nepal since 2001, providing humanitarian assistance to people affected by conflict and major natural hazards, including the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake in 2015 which claimed close to 9,000 lives and destroyed more than half a million homes.
During Nepal’s internal conflict, and up until 2011, EU humanitarian actions have supported thousands of conflict-affected people, especially in rural areas, by providing healthcare as well as water and sanitation facilities. The EU also assisted refugees from Bhutan for more than 10 years until 2015.