Coordination mission; Chautara, Sindhupalchok

As I mentioned when I posted my last post, I was moments away from setting off on a new mission. The challenge? To move to Chautara, district headquarters for Sindhupalchok – one of the most heavily affected districts, the current death toll from the April 25th earthquake stands at 3440 for this district alone, almost 40% of the national total – on an interim VSO volunteer placement to manage activating the function of District Lead Support Agency (in this case Save the Children) as a support mechanism for the Government of Nepal’s District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC) for the district.

#1 Just to give you a flavour of why all possible support is required – here are some shots of the main market street of Chautara. This is one month on when the road has in fact been cleared and a lot of debris clearing has already been done. Estimates are that somewhere in the region of 90-95% of homes are uninhabitable across the entire district;


#2 Even the buildings which are technically still standing, it’s easy to see that they won’t be standing for long. When the major aftershock struck on May 12th, apparently many partially damaged buildings came crashing down. Concerns over further aftershocks and the impact of the monsoon rains are ever present and controlled demolition is happening as fast as possible;

buildings 2

#3 I can only begin to imagine how frightening it must have been exactly here when the ground was shaking and your world was literally crumbling around you. I just hope there was no-one in this car at that moment for example;


#4 It’s not just homes that were damaged either of course. Government buildings – such as the site of the former local Government District Office (top) – and businesses – the remnants of a 5 story hotel (bottom). Plus every single government run school, all 545 of them, have suffered severe damage along with health posts and hospitals as well as roads and communication networks;

buildings 1

#5 So relief is needed to ensure the almost 300,000 people who live in Sindhupalchok have adequate shelter, food, access to medical services, clean water, sanitation, psychosocial support, that education can restart, that children have somewhere safe to play and much more besides. And for all of that to happen effectively people need to manage logistics, coordination and protection services across the board. Luckily, the Government of Nepal is far from alone. Here are some pictures of the tent city sent up in the town’s middle including the coordination centre for UNOCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), a ‘Child Friendly Space’  set up by SOS and a large scale field hospital set up by the Norwegian Red Cross. My role is to help the DDRC to have access to accurate and timely information about the huge wealth of relief activities going on by these and countless more national and international agencies so that they can make well informed decisions and ensure a fair and effective provision of relief to all affected citizens;


#6 Which of course initially takes on the form of attending meetings, meetings, meetings – generally in safe outdoor spaces – to meet everyone involved and start to map out the information channels and identify gaps and issues. These photos are from the district level Education Cluster, Shelter Cluster and overall DDRC review;


#7 I also absolutely have to mention my fabulous new colleagues from Save the Children (SC). An amazing group of Nepali SC staff who have all agreed to be redeployed to Chautara for 15 days or longer to run SC operations in 15 VDCs (which stands for Village Development Committees and is the community level government in Nepal. Each VDC covers around 7-9 wards, or what elsewhere might be considered hamlets or settlements). The team are handling distribution of relief supplies, establishment of health, nutrition, WASH & education services in these VDCs as well as leading the district level Education and Protection clusters. I’ve personally been working every single day from 7am until after 10pm until my brain has hurt, stopping only for food (copious amounts of daal bhaat morning, noon and night in fact so it looks like I’m going to be putting on weight thanks to this disaster). My team mates are hard at it before me and sometimes continue after I crash. Though sleeping in tents, away from their families and with not enough water to shower etc. the team continue working all hours with a ready smile. On May 26th, one month on, there was also an organised one minute’s silence at 11:56 and in the evening a candle lighting commemorative service attended by many;


#8 Finally, here is Chautara viewed from up the nearest hill (I finally got a 30 minute break and stretched my legs on a spontaneous, inter-agency evening walk). The scenery here is simply stunning. As Chautara town runs along a ridge, on every side there are stunning views of epic hills and valleys in true Nepal style. Each day every single person here is working hard to rebuild Nepal slowly but surely. It’s been over a week for me here now and it feels great to be a part of things, contributing and supporting where I can. Though a full night’s sleep and a shower wouldn’t go amiss, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be…;



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