I have just returned from Nepal, which is recovering from the earthquake that struck the country in March.
Actually, whatever readers may have seen or read, the relief effort was very successful and the response by international donors impressively fast.
Humanitarian relief after disasters is one part of our international development effort of which the British people thoroughly approve. The Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Nepal quickly raised £83 million, and that is in addition to many other fund raising efforts that took place all over the country. The UK Government has committed £70 million.
There remains a significant number of remote areas that are still in need of substantial relief. The monsoon and the coming winter make addressing that need all the more urgent.
Naturally, focus is now on reconstruction and the need to ‘build back better’ – as the campaign slogan puts it.
The most important lesson that people need to understand is, I believe, that the success of the rescue and relief effort was built on the back of our international development budget over several years of investment.
We had earthquake-proofed some 60 schools, all of them survived where some 7000 other schools were destroyed, the same is true of the hospitals that we had reinforced. We had put in place a ready-to-use logistical staging facility for relief supplies at the airport. Had this not been ready and waiting it would have cost the relief effort 7 weeks overall in cumulative delays. We had pre-positioned essential supplies and invested in the training of volunteers for distribution, for rescue, and for first aid. We had rehearsed and rehearsed.
It is this sort of investment in resilience,every year,that makes the difference, not just opening our wallets once a disaster has happened.
Nepal is now open for tourism again. I visited a number of its fantastic World Heritage sites. The country has so much to offer, including its magnificent Himalayan trekking trails. Tourism is Nepal’s largest earner and it’s down 90 percent since the earthquake. If the Nepalese people are to thrive they need tourists. So, COME TO NEPAL…and, of course, always check for latest travel advice at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/nepal