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Floods in Nepal

Phil Miller is Concern's Country Director for Nepal. He is part of the Concern team assessing the damage caused by the recent flooding. Over the coming days he will be blogging from Nepal.

I arrived in Biratnagar four days after initial reports of the manmade earthen embankment breaking. The resulting floods have displaced up to 50,000 people in the districts of Sunsari and Saptari, in eastern Nepal.

Coordinating with other agencies  

I’m here to do an assessment of the situation. I am accompanied by Sanoj Tulachan who has just joined Concern. In preparation for the flood season, we began planning with Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN), working together on disaster response.

We drive to Inaruwa, the district headquarters of Sunsari, for a series of meetings with other NGOs. Assessments are ongoing, with the needs of children, pregnant women and new mothers being prioritised. 

The compound of the Chief District Officer (CDO) is the centre of the response to the floods, with the CDO responsible for everything.  The government is taking their role of leading the disaster response seriously. However, it is impossible for one person to be able to effectively direct an operation of this magnitude especially when there are few systems (manual or computerised) in place.

There are 22 sites allocated for the displaced survivors, with authorities rescuing people every day. 15,000 people are reportedly on the western side of the river which has forged a new course through the villages and fields of thousands of unsuspecting Nepalis.  

Housed in schools

Across the road from the government office, between 1,800 and 2,500 people are housed in Bhagwati Secondary School. Vivendra (a colleague from the International Rescue Committee and I take a look around the school to assess conditions and needs. Most people here are women and children. Many of the men are outside trying to salvage possessions or looking after livestock. There are three tap stands for this camp and few existing toilets, which would have struggled to cope with the student population. A blue plastic sheet has been used to cordon off a bathing area.

I am a little nervous meeting the residents of the camp, as right now I have nothing to give, except words of compassion. People could be angry. They should be. I would be if I was in their predicament.