Swedish authorities were quick to respond to the earthquake and reported its readiness to supply specialist personnel, material and resources on the ground to the UN system, the EU and Nepalese authorities. To date, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) has approved SEK 50 million – or USD 6 million – to aid in the relief and recovery efforts in Nepal.
Two weeks after the devastating earthquake in Nepal, the impact of the catastrophe is still too great to comprehend. The loss of life is nearing 8 000; the number of wounded almost double. The UN estimates that 8 million people have been directly affected by the earthquake. Villages have been destroyed, livelihoods shattered, families torn apart. Responding to a disaster of this magnitude requires the help of ones friends and both Nepal’s immediate neighbors and partners across the globe have reacted swiftly to offer their assistance. Sweden will do its part in ensuring that Nepal can begin healing and rebuilding.
A total of 40 specialized field staff from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) touched down in Kathmandu on Wednesday April 29th followed by a cargo plane with equipment and material a day later. In close coordination with the Nepalese government and UN humanitarian bodies, Sweden was able to tailor its response away from search and rescue operations and instead focus on coordination and needs assessments. For those purposes, MSB sent experts in the fields of engineering, health care, coordination and management. Half of the team has been stationed in Gorkha, 90 km west of Kathmandu, to help set up an ‘On-Site Operations Coordination Centre’ together with UNDAC, with the goal of coordinating the assistance of the many help organizations that are operating in the area.
The Swedish support is also channeled to other actors. The World Food Programme and the UN Humanitarian Air Services (UNHAS) have been allocated SEK 10 million to enable helicopter drops and delivery; UNICEF has been given SEK 10 million for child nutrition and protection programmes; the Swedish Red Cross has received SEK 5 million to work on water and sanitation and shelter; etc.
A related task in a disaster of this magnitude is to provide support and assistance to Swedish citizens. Nepal is a popular tourist attraction for tourists from Sweden and at the time of the earthquake hundreds of Swedes were in the country. Calls came in for assistance from Kathmandu and Langtang, Pokhara and Ghorka. As Sweden has no embassy in Nepal, we had to rely on Nordic cooperation to help set up our support office in Kathmandu. The Nordic countries also operated a consular help desk at the airport, with a team of Swedish doctors, police and MSB officers on call.
Sweden is one of the biggest contributors to the UNs Central Emergency Response Fund. In 2014 Sweden donated approximately USD 50 million (410 million SEK) to the fund. Swedish core support to the UNs humanitarian affairs organisations is vital for their capacity to act with instant flexibility to prioritize and reorganize according to the demands and needs of humanitarian assistance.