The Way We Work
by Elke Vaikla, Strategy Advisor of NRS International
Elke Vaikla, Strategy Advisor, along with Martina Aureli, Business Development and Sales Executive, travelled to Nepal on behalf of NRS International to identify the actual emergency relief needs on the ground. In her blog, Elke shares with us her fascinating experiences and provides a unique private sector perspective of the disaster response following the Nepal earthquake.
My taxi screeched to a halt and the driver jumped out and fled. Looking quickly around to see what had happened, all I could see were people abandoning their cars and panicked villagers crowding the centre of the road. As I scrambled out of the car loose rocks and debris began to tumble down from the surrounding mountains, threatening to engulf us all.
I looked at the frantic villagers and saw in their eyes something I was to see many times during my travels in this ravaged country – fear and stress of course, but a flicker of hope too. We later learnt that this was the biggest tremor to hit Nepal since the destructive 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country on 25 April. As we moved to a more secure location I caught my breath and stopped to ask myself, ‘What do these people need to get back their lives; how can we help them?’
NRS International had decided to make a field assessment visit to Nepal to gain a real understanding of the beneficiaries’ needs and how we could help to meet them. The incident at the roadside village set the scene for the week as we made our way up to the Gorkha region and its remote villages. Arriving at Gorkha just one hour later, our local guide Hari Devkota informed us that our hotel had just suffered significant damage from the quake we had felt. Nonetheless, we gave no more thought to where we would stay; we just wanted to meet with as many organisations as possible.
Hari is a Gorkha resident and highly educated volunteer who is completely devoted to helping the people within his region. As we met regional NGOs and other aid groups, we often heard the same story– that the needs they identified for their region were not being met due to bureaucratic obstacles. We saw proof of this with our own eyes; the quality of aid items already procured was not as high as it could have been, and tarpaulins that had been in the field for a couple of weeks were already frayed and spent.
Everyone’s biggest fear was the oncoming monsoon and the lack of real shelter. As we showed our tent and tarpaulin samples representatives from some NGO admitted that they were strugglingto procure the quality items that could provide protection and comfort for the rainy season.
We continued our trip, venturing up into the hinterland to a remote hilltop village, some 4,200 feet high and only accessible on foot during the monsoon. We were the first to have visited them and their humanity towards us was both humbling and overwhelming. Then, back in Kathmandu, we met with international organisations and INGOs. They gave us a warm reception and said they were glad that the private sector had taken the time to come and assess first-hand the local situation and needs.
At one meeting with a major humanitarian organisation, I expressed my concerns regarding the quality of items already procured, the oncoming monsoon season and the need to re-allocate spending to address the needs of beneficiaries in the most efficient way. The words hit home and we were asked to publish a report so that others understand the need for quality items that can bring the protection, shelter and dignity to those in distress in beautiful Nepal.