In Solidarity with Nepal
When we heard the news that Nepal was hit by a second powerful earthquake, our hearts dropped. It seems that moments of silence are the most appropriate in times of great tragedy such as this, but we also want to speak out through our sadness to share some humble insights that may help those who are working to repair some of the damage done in Nepal. Many involved in the relief effort in Nepal have already reached out to SOIL for advice, and we are grateful to be able to assist in even small ways.
We’re sharing a list of resources and lessons learned while working in sanitation in Haiti, and then while doing emergency relief work when an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. We hope that these resources will provide some guidance to those who are working in Nepal.
Important Lessons from SOIL’s Emergency Experience in Haiti
1. Seek out local experts who were doing work in the country before the emergency occurred.
Nepal, like Haiti, had a high density of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) even before the earthquake, and this is only likely to increase in the emergency response period. From our experience after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, we realized how important it was for foreign groups and to work through those that have local connections or knowledge of the local context and needs of the community. This approach will increase the likeliness of resources having a high-impact within the communities that are being targeted.In the acute emergency phase, seek to support pre-existing initiatives as well as those organizations that have long standing emergency expertise. In the recovery stage, seek to support those organizations with local buy-in and years of experience in the country.
2. Participate in networks that are already organized in order to best allocate limited resources, share information, and coordinate efforts.
Resources like the ones listed below can be a good starting point to help individuals and organizations to become part of an ecosystem of relief-related groups. The more communication and coordination occurs at early stages, the easier it will be to make sure that resources are being used effectively to serve people effected by the disaster. When efforts are duplicated without communication, we all waste time in learning the same lessons, so we should strive to share our best practices transparently and work together.
3. Remember that toilets are only part of waste treatment. If properly maintained, they provide a dignified and clean place to relieve oneself, which is so vital. But improper waste disposal after the fact can lead to devastating public health crises.
This one is particular to the sanitation sector, but it is also relevant to anyone who is working in Nepal and has sanitation as part of their project. Although it is sometime critical in the immediate aftermath of a disaster to install mobile toilets or to dig latrines as quickly as possible and dispose of the waste in temporary treatment sites, emergencies can also provide a springboard for development of the waste treatment sector. As the emergency situation gives way to recovery there is often the opportunity to use emergency funding to put in waste treatment faculties that can serve the community in a sustained way after emergency actors have left. This is not always possible, but it is something that can be considered in the later stages of emergency relief.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have died, and we stand with the courageous survivors as they work to rebuild.
Ecological Sanitation / WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene)
- The SOIL Guide to EcoSan > www.oursoil.org/resources/the-soil-guide-to-ecosan/
- Ministry of Health > www.mohp.gov.np/