Heart wrenching stories of pain, sorrow and survival continue to pour from Nepal. The earthquake of 7.8 magnitude hit the poor landlocked country on 25th April, leaving at least 2000 dead and thousands injured. The rescuers have still not been able to reach out to far flung areas and it is very likely that the number of fatalities will rise.
It is yet to be known how many of them were women, but experience from all disasters shows that women are always more affected. For instance, for every one man killed during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, four women lost their lives. This is why ActionAid works to ensure that women and vulnerable are at the "frontline" of the planning and delivery of disaster response and preparedness in the community.
As per the seismologists, an earthquake in the region was overdue considering that earthquakes of this size occur approximately every 75 years, tracking the historical trend dating back to 1255. In the last two decades, numerous steps have been taken by the Nepal government and civil society, in collaboration with international donors, to prepare for earthquakes and other disasters. Efforts were made to train children and youth on first aid, search and rescue; strengthen infrastructure; retrofit houses and schools; promote safe building codes etc. However, they still fell short of making the country and its people, particularly women, resilient to a disaster of this magnitude.
ActionAid Australia, in partnership with The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, recently brought out the Women's Resilience Index (WRI) for South Asia. The index assessed the capacity of countries for risk reduction in disaster and recovery, and the extent to which women are considered in the national rebuilding efforts. Nepal scored 45.2 out of the overall score of 100 underpinning the need to scale up efforts significantly.
Being a least developed country, marred by political instability for over a decade, the mountainous country has a long way to go to improve financial access to women, provide employment, improve land-use planning, enhance communications reach, and most importantly transform patriarchal attitudes towards women. All of this is fundamental to improve capacity of a society and country to withstand and cope with such shocks and even increasing climate change impacts.
At this moment though, our thoughts and prayers are with Nepal and its people. The entire ActionAid family is making efforts to help the affected people and we commit to work hand in hand with the government and the international community to overcome the crisis and work towards building a resilient society, led by women and girls.