Using art to provoke action at the UN
As Irish artist Brian Maguire's 'War Changes Its Address' exhibition is unveiled at the UN, Concern Worldwide Chief Executive Dominic MacSorley reflects on the close connection between art and activism
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In her second report from Nepal, Concern's Head of Emergency Support System, Anne-Marie McCarthy, commemorates the one year anniversaryof the devastating earthquake.
One year on from the Nepal earthquake of 2015, which killed nearly 9,000 people, it is obvious that some progress has been made but the needs remaining are huge. I travelled this week to Nepal to support our team on the recovery programme and my visit coincided with the anniversary of the earthquake.
The earthquake of last year fell on 25 April, Baisakh 12 according to the Nepali calendar, which falls on 24 April this year. Today, Concern staff joined local authorities, other NGOs and the community in Charikot, Dolakha district, to commemorate last year’s earthquake. One minute’s silence was marked at 11.56am, the time of the earthquake. This was very moving as was a video showing the aftermath of the events last year and some of the response that was carried out. Many of Concern's Nepal staff members lost family or friends during the earthquake last year and the stories are all sad. For months, we were told that people would jump at the smallest noise, as they worried that another earthquake would come.
Charikot, where we were today, was the epicentre of the major aftershock of 12 May and many more buildings were damaged that had survived the event of 25 April. After the earthquake, buildings were assessed to see if they were safe and those that were deemed unsafe were marked with a red "X" and were to be demolished. Some demolition has taken place of the worst buildings but many people can’t afford to demolish and rebuild and are at huge risk if there are future seismic events in this area.
We visited a school which was marked with an "X" but the school had simply repaired the damaged wall with corrugated sheeting, again another huge hazard. Another school that we visited, where Concern provided materials for temporary shelter, also has water source issues, so their toilets are not being used. Many villages in Nepal had been declared open defecation free but now this situation is changing. Concern’s next programme is to fix the water supply issues to make sure that the toilets can be used again.
Having spent a month here in Nepal during the second phase of the response last year, I have found if personally very satisfying to see for myself what we had been planning last year. The schools that had been damaged or destroyed in the earthquake needed temporary classrooms, which we were able to provide and over 6,000 families received temporary shelter materials which are visible all over the programme areas. However, what these families and these schools need now is permanent buildings but progress in this area is slow.
At 7pm this evening in Charikot there was to be a candle light vigil for those who died. We did not attend as we travelled back to Kathmandu.The expectations of the affected communities are high, for support to rebuild their lives and livelihoods but the funding is not sufficient to meet those needs. It seems that the world has moved on to other crises but in Nepal the memory of the earthquake is very present.