What you can do to help Nepal's recovery

Two men working to clear debris from a collapsed house, a month after the April 25 earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Two men working to clear debris from a collapsed house, a month after the April 25 earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Nepal has been hit by several strong earthquakes and aftershocks in the span of a month. Thousands are dead, many others injured, yet instead of planning for relief work, search and rescue efforts are still ongoing. It has been more than 3 weeks and many of the armies doing search and rescue are moving out of the country or have left. Although much aid is donated, the distribution is slow and many people have not eaten for days.

So far, only 14 per cent of the humanitarian aid sought by the United Nations for the relief effort in Nepal has been met, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. One of the factors is because Nepal has received far less business aid. In the aftermath of the Japanese disaster, firms around the world rushed in with cash and goods, providing more than half of the total international aid for Japan's relief. But the corporate flow into Nepal has been barely a trickle.

Everyone in Nepal is affected. Aid workers and survivors live under constant earthquakes since April 25, and this can be a psychological toll on the people. For many survivors in Nepal, this long term emotional consequence of the disaster will also affect their mindset; they feel helpless as they cannot do anything to stop the earthquakes, and at the same time, being unable to contribute to their community as relief workers displace the locals in many aspects.

Hopefully, in the days to come, the aftershocks can be over and the relief teams can focus on providing food, shelter, aid and medical help again. Although much aid is needed in the relief phase currently, when the situation stabilizes, as the news focus on death, destruction and the chilling accounts from the survivors, with less news reported, the donations coming in will reduce as well.

This is the major challenge because the support that follows is usually not as widely recognized and support than immediately after the disaster. People understand that providing food, water and aid is essential for the survivors directly after the disaster, but many fail to realize that you can give the survivors many things, but they can never get their -- dignity.

So how can you support in the recovery?

Currently, there is still a short fall of donations needed to support the survivors. Many homes are destroyed and many people are now homeless and there is a call for tents to be provided. Soon, when the situation is more stable and the debris is cleared, construction of incremental housing -- a low cost, scalable building framework can begin.

As there is still a short fall in the aid sought, donations are still needed. However, to prevent dependence on the aid provided and turning the survivors into refugees, initiatives that would support local businesses, support employment of locals or promote local exports would help local economy, much needed for a complete recovery.

There are always ways to contribute.

I plan to go Nepal in the summer and restart businesses.

In every disaster, sole-proprietor business owners who have structurally sound buildings, cannot access business loans. However, instead of waiting for the government to act (which may take months), loans can come from other local companies or through online crowdfunding. I intend to ask these business owners are interviewed and 4 questions are asked:

"What happened during the disaster?"

"What did you lose?"

"How much do you need?" and

"What are you going to use the money for?"

The interview video is shown in an event where business owners are invited to get interest bearing business loans from them. The video can also be used as an online pitch to get loans. Restarting businesses is low risk ways of helping the economy recover. The business owners can start to make money again, and the employees can get their jobs back.

Even though I may be going to Nepal by myself, I am never alone. I am crowdfunding my trip online with Fundedbyme.com. When I meet the local organizations, and engage the locals in the shelters, I will share information about their capabilities, resources they can access to, so social enterprises who want to start their businesses in Nepal can also understand the local eco-system more, and collaborate on possible projects.

Helping does not mean donations or giving people things, you can support them by 4 simple ways; engage, enable, empower and connect. The locals know their situation best, and they should be allowed to decide how to rebuild their lives.

Nepalese needs a lot of support and this disaster can be an opportunity for us to join in to rebuild and make Nepal better than before the disaster. It is up to the international community, spared of all the disasters to show solidarity and help each other in times of need.

Robin Low is an enterpreneur who is active in community projects and a frequent disaster relief volunteer.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.