On Saturday, April 25, 2015 a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, slightly northwest of the capital city Kathmandu. It was the worst earthquake to strike the region in more than 80 years – since the Bihar earthquake in 1934. Nepal was hit with a second 7.3 magnitude quake 17 days later on May 12. The second quake caused massive damage and suffering for those who had survived the initial disaster.
Stretching already humble Nepali resources, hundreds of thousands of people were left without shelter, water and provisions necessary to sustain life. Over 9,000 people were killed and over 22,000 additional people were injured. The earthquake was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake. Nepal, a country with a rich cultural heritage and tourism industry, is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. The earthquake placed a burden on the people of Nepal that will be felt for many years to come.
The Fuel Relief Fund (FRF) Board made an immediate decision to respond to the needs of the Nepali people. Our three-man team arrived in Kathmandu within 48 hours of the initial quake. Following our standard response protocol, we made contact with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) to assess the immediate needs and requirements. FRF responders funded the initial response with $50,000 from its own reserves to procure the required fuel for distribution. Our partner Global Giving subsequently donated $50,000 to FRF to assist our ongoing deployment. One hundred percent of the Global Giving donation and funds collected for the earthquake response went to the Nepali effort to purchase and provide fuel for people affected by the earthquake.
The FRF deployment team procured over 13,400 gallons of gasoline and diesel which was subsequently distributed as follows:
- On the first day of our operations in Nepal, FRF fueled vehicles for the United Nations OCHA and the World Food Program (WFP). Subsequently, Doctors Without Borders and other international NGOs and local relief agencies were provided free fuel.
- FRF provided fuel to power generators for area hospitals such that they could maintain their ability to serve patient needs, as well as the utilization of their ambulances, buses, and other operationally necessary equipment.
- The FRF team also supplied fuel for generators used by the Nepali people who were camped in open fields because they were afraid to stay in their dwellings for fear of the structures crumbling during the many numbered after-shocks.
- Provided fuel to the City of Kathmandu to power their water treatment plant that produces 10,000 liters of fresh water an hour.
- FRF also procured the use of a flatbed truck to transport 55 gallon barrels of gasoline and diesel to the remote villages on the mountain sides of Nepal.
- We provided fuel for many small motorcycles that local Nepalese use to get food and water to the remote mountain villages. Several of the roads and bridges were impossible to navigate in a vehicle.
The immediate and significant impact of FRF’s deployment was that the many relief agencies and the Nepali people received needed fuel to sustain their lives and relief efforts until a more established source of fuel could be restored. Once traditional sources of fuel were resumed, our team returned to the United States. However, ongoing systemic challenges originating in the fuel infrastructure and trade relations in the region have caused great hardship to the people of Nepal, well after earthquake response and recovery efforts had slowed down.
Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local people affected by the earthquake expressed their sincere appreciation for FRF’s month-long deployment. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) also noted the crucial and sustaining impact our services had on their relief efforts. Based on these experiences, FRF’s relationship with those two branches of the United Nations grew extensively and the possibility emerged after the deployment, of a formalized partnership agreement between FRF and UN OCHA and additionally between FRF and WFP.
Though time after time FRF and our partners see that after major disasters little can be accomplished without fuel, FRF remains the only international charitable non-governmental organization in the world that is focused exclusively on providing free fuel for people affected by disasters and the relief agencies that serve them.