KATHMANDU, Nepal- The 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal claimed the lives of almost 4,000 people and has left approximately 1.4 million others in dire need of aid and assistance. There has been a swift and concerted global response in sending aid to the Himalayan country, but there are many logistical challenges groups are facing.
According to the International Energy Agency, Nepal has the seventh lowest “development energy index” in the world. In lieu of a modernized energy infrastructure, the Nepalese depend on rudimentary energy sources such as agricultural waste, wood and livestock manure. Even before the devastating earthquake, the vast majority of Nepal’s 31 million people did not have access to electrical energy. Nepal’s national GDP is around U.S. $2,400 and for this reason, many people simply cannot afford electricity. The mountainous geography of the country makes electrical access even more of an obstacle. The combination of these factors makes Nepal, like many other developing countries, a difficult place to send disaster aid and relief. To this point, the country of Nepal and its people have been reliant upon international NGOs to assist in their recovery.
As is the case in most disaster relief efforts, there is a dire need for clean water. Being situated in the Himalayan Mountains, water is an abundant resource in Nepal coming from glaciers, rivers and snow-capped peaks. However, much of this water is not safe to drink and must be purified. As a result, many organizations have developed water purifiers with the intention of disaster relief distribution. One organization, Aqua Access LLC, has developed a portable and inexpensive solar water purifier. The “H2gO” costs U.S. $100 and can purify 20 liters at a time and around 300 gallons per charge. There are currently about 100 H2gO units being tested in Nepal with plans to send many more. Water borne diseases such as cholera can be rampant in refugee camps, so it is imperative to have access to clean water.
Along with clean water, reliable and effective lighting is a crucial safety need in the many refugee camps. SunFarmer was originally an organization that supplied solar powered batteries and lights to schools and hospitals in developing countries. However, since the earthquake, SunFarmer has begun to solicit funds from the clean technology community so the organization can donate their products to Nepal directly.
“Paying is not an option, because they’ve lost everything” says Avishek Malla, the local director of operations for SunFarmer based in Kathmandu.
Malla has a deep personal stake in this initiative as he is a native of Nepal and has witnessed the destruction first hand. He has even personally installed solar streetlights in his neighborhood. As of this writing, SunFarmer has raised over U.S. $100,000 to donate solar powered technology to Nepal.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has partnered with The IKEA Foundation to construct a series of disaster shelters. IKEA released a statement saying, “It is designed with special attention to transport volume, weight, price, safety, health and comfort, and it can be assembled on site without additional tools and equipment.” Each shelter also comes equipped with a solar panel that lasts for three years and solar lantern for indoor lighting. During the development phase, Better Shelters’ were tested by 40 refugee families in Iraq and Ethiopia. So far, the UNHCR has ordered over 10,000 units from the IKEA Foundation and they are to be shipped to Nepal this summer.
– Frasier Petersen