Nepal Earthquakes explained

20 April 2017

Elizabeth during Nepal site visit

CAFOD partners are delivering aid in some of the worst hit districts in Nepal

We answer your questions about the Nepal earthquakes and our response

Please pray for the people of Nepal

What has happened?

On Saturday 25 April 2015 a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. The major cities, including the capital Kathmandu, were badly damaged, while in rural areas near the epicentre 90% of people lost their homes and livestock, and were left with no way of obtaining food. This was the worst earthquake to hit Nepal for 81 years. Millions of people were affected, at least 8,700 were killed, and more than half a million homes were destroyed.

Just over two weeks later, on Tuesday 12 May, a second 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, adding to the destruction. In the months since, the monsoon rains and a harsh winter in the north have made life even more challenging for many families.  

CAFOD’s Church partners continue to be on the front line of the emergency response, providing immediate and longer term aid to hundreds of thousands of people.

What are the needs?

The two major earthquakes, as well as many smaller aftershocks, have had a catastrophic impact on the lives of millions of people. Even before the earthquakes 25% of the population of Nepal were living in extreme poverty, and today many have lost their homes, their possessions and their means of making a living.

In the first few months following the earthquakes, affected families needed food, emergency shelter and essential household goods – like blankets, clothes, pots, pans and cooking equipment – to replace those that have been lost. People also need clean water, sanitation and support with managing hygiene in order to prevent the spread of disease.

The main need was for shelter support, and those living in high altitude areas were particularly vulnerable over the winter. CAFOD’s partners helped provide temporary shelter materials including iron sheeting and tools, and relief items such as blankets, tarpaulins, warm clothing and fuel to help families through the colder months.

Our partners are now providing longer term support, including helping people to rebuild their homes and schools, find ways to make a living again, and be better prepared for any future disasters.

Help us respond when emergencies happen by making a regular gift

What have been some of the challenges over the last two years?

Visiting Nepal one year after the earthquakes, CAFOD’s Director Chris Bain said:

“Attention is now turning to the massive task of reconstruction, despite the many challenges faced by our partners during the last year, including; monsoon rains blocking roads, fuel shortages and price hikes due to blockades along the Indian border, as well as delays in establishing the government’s National Reconstruction Authority, which coordinates the reconstruction of earthquake-proof houses.”

Two years on, hundreds of thousands of families have received reconstruction grants, re-building is well underway, and many families are now living in their newly constructed, earthquake-resilient homes.

CAFOD’s partners are working with over 10,000 families to rebuild safe homes, through supporting them to access grants and plan their homes, training local masons in building techniques to withstand earthquakes, and educating communities on safe reconstruction.

How is CAFOD responding?

CAFOD and our partners began delivering aid within hours of the first earthquake, and we are continuing to work hard to provide aid to families who have had their lives torn apart. In coalition with our partners in the Caritas network of Catholic aid agencies, we provided food, shelter kits and emergency supplies to more than 350,000 people across 15 earthquake-affected districts in the first few months. CAFOD’s team on the ground provided technical expertise around water, sanitation and hygiene management, and in the protection of children and vulnerable adults, as well as management support to our partners.

Over the first winter, CAFOD’s partners Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Nepal delivered winterisation support – including blankets, tarpaulins, foam mats, and grants for clothing and fuel – to over 37,000 people, to help them through the colder months. CRS and Caritas Nepal also provided cash grants to help very vulnerable families in Gorkha District to buy crucial items like clothes and food.

In Rasuwa District, our partner Cordaid provided clean water, latrines and relief items to around 2,500 people living in temporary camps after their villages were destroyed. They are also providing skills training and livelihoods support – in areas such as vegetable gardening, masonry, chicken-raising, tailoring and bee-keeping – to more than 3,000 families in both the camps and surrounding villages.

In Sindhupalchowk District, where the earthquake led to 89% of school classrooms being destroyed or made unsafe, our partner Caritas Switzerland is rebuilding 34 schools and training teachers and students on how to be safer in disasters. Two new earthquake-resilient schools have already been completed and have been handed over to the local communities.

Our partners are also training hundreds of local masons in earthquake-resilient building techniques, so that families can build their homes back safely.

Our work is possible because of the generosity of Catholics in England and Wales, who have donated more than £3.9 million to our Nepal Earthquake appeal. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – a coalition of leading UK aid agencies, of which CAFOD is a part – also launched a joint appeal that has raised more than £85 million.

Help us to be there when emergencies happen by making a regular gift

Who are CAFOD’s partners?

We are working with Caritas Nepal, which has extensive church networks across the country, as well as with Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Switzerland and Cordaid from the Caritas network of Catholic agencies.

We are also working with International Nepal Fellowship and Community Action Nepal, who have been working with communities in Nepal for many years.

How are you coordinating your response to the Nepal Earthquakes with others?

As a member of Caritas International – the second largest humanitarian network in the world – we are coordinating closely with other Catholic agencies working in Nepal to ensure that our response is as efficient and effective as possible. Caritas agencies are working with Caritas Nepal, which has an existing network of Church staff and volunteers in some of the hardest to reach areas of the country.

CAFOD and its partners are also liaising with the Nepalese government, UN agencies and other national and international NGOs in Nepal to ensure our response is well-coordinated. As part of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), we work together with twelve other major British aid agencies to ensure that we are not duplicating our efforts.

Is the aid getting through to those most in need?

Yes. With support from CAFOD and other Catholic agencies, Caritas Nepal has been working hard to ensure that people have food and shelter. Together we reached more than 350,000 people with emergency aid, and we are continuing to support many thousands of families to rebuild their lives. 

During the first winter after the disaster, it was estimated that around 400,000 people living at high altitudes in temporary shelters were in need of additional relief items such as blankets, tarpaulins, warm clothing and fuel to keep warm. CAFOD’s partners were able to reach over 37,000 people with winterisation support.

Our partners’ recovery activities have reached thousands more families with shelter reconstruction support, clean water, livelihoods recovery, school reconstruction and disaster risk reduction over the last two years.

Are earthquakes common in Nepal?

Earthquakes are common in or near the Himalayas, where the Indian tectonic plate pushes five centimetres north a year, coming up against the Eurasian plate. In Nepal the last quake of similar magnitude was in 1934. 70 or 80 years appears typical between big earthquakes. Over five million people live in and around Kathmandu, and seismologists have long feared a major earthquake striking the sprawling city. Although the government and aid agencies had worked hard to prepare for an earthquake, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and understandably struggled to cope with a disaster on this scale.

How can I help?

Please pray for the people of Nepal

CAFOD supporters have already been very generous but the more donations we receive the more support we can offer to the people of Nepal. Donate to our Nepal Earthquake Appeal

Help us to be there when emergencies happen by making a regular gift

Back to top