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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Former UAE resident’s charity steps up Nepal aid programme

With winter approaching, volunteers are looking to accelerate reconstruction efforts in Nepal as the country recovers from a series of earthquakes and aftershocks that killed almost 9,000 and injured 22,000 earlier this year.
Zeina Abdo, right, is planning a US$50,000 relief programme for the Nepalese affected by earthquake. Courtesy Zeina Abdo
Zeina Abdo, right, is planning a US$50,000 relief programme for the Nepalese affected by earthquake. Courtesy Zeina Abdo

ABU DHABI // With winter approaching, volunteers are looking to accelerate reconstruction efforts in Nepal as the country recovers from a series of earthquakes and aftershocks that killed almost 9,000 and injured 22,000 earlier this year.

The volunteers are working with Smile For Hope – a charity based in France that has been operating in Nepal since 2012, and was founded by former UAE resident Zeina Abdo, who was born and raised in Abu Dhabi.

The charity has been working on projects since the earthquakes struck in April and May, providing medical supplies and building shelters to endure the monsoon season, which began in June.

It is now looking to raise money to build on efforts by larger organisations and contribute to restoring a sense of normality to the lives of the Nepalese – particularly those in remote villages that have yet to receive aid.

“Most of the NGOs asked for immediate help,” said Dubai resident Toufic Nader, 29, a volunteer with Smile For Hope who has assisted in missions that included 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

“It was important at that time, but those people have lost everything; their food, their income, their shelter,” he said. “They are poor, the schools are gone, the medical centres are gone, their houses are gone,” said Mr Nader.

“Giving immediate help was essential, but now they have to go back to their daily lives.” Along with Ms Abdo, UAE resident and team member Imad Atwi, and a team based in Nepal, they are aiming to raise US$50,000 (Dh184,000).

To achieve this, they have set up a crowdfunding page on indiegogo.com.

They are planning to build schools, a trauma centre staffed by medical volunteers, and semi-permanent homes that will act as temporary shelter before permanent housing is built.

Microfinancing opportunities for economic development are planned.

Starting in the village of Lapsephedi, the charity is hoping to reach as many remote villages as possible by the end of the year.

Mr Nader said rehabilitation efforts come at a critical time, with monsoon rains and the potential for flooding and landslides, which claimed at least 33 lives in one incident in western Nepal last month.

“It’s important that we help now because the monsoon has already done a lot of damage, there are a lot of landslides and people are dying,” he said.

“Especially before the winter season, when the snow arrives and the temperature drops below zero.”

Krishna Aryal, with the embassy of Nepal in Abu Dhabi, said: “The earthquake had a big toll on life, property, infrastructure, cultural heritage and the ambient natural environment of the country.”

With more than half a million houses fully or partially damaged and three million people without homes, Mr Aryal said the government had received pledges for US$4 billion (Dh15bn) in reconstruction funding – two thirds of their estimated requirements.

He said the Nepalese government had begun reconstruction of damaged properties and was asking for further funding.

esamoglou@thenational.ae