As the death toll from Saturday’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal continues to rise, we’re reading about the health threat facing survivors.
In addition to the injured, an estimated 2.8 million people have been displaced by the earthquake as many are afraid to return to their homes.
The United Nations (UN) has launched an urgent appeal for $415 million to reach over 8 million people with life-saving assistance and protection over the next three months.
Its report offers insight into the scale of the unfolding humanitarian disaster:
According to initial estimations and based on the latest earthquake intensity mapping, over 8 million people are affected in 39 of Nepal’s 75 districts. Over 2 million people live in the 11 most critically hit districts.”
The government estimates that over 70,000 houses have been destroyed, Over 3,000 schools are located in the 11 most severely affected districts. Up to 90 percent of health facilities in rural areas have been damaged. Hospitals in district capitals, including Kathmandu, are overcrowded and lack medical supplies and capacity.”
Strong tremors have damaged infrastructure, including bridges and roads and telecommunications systems. Transport of fresh water has been interrupted and fuel is running low in many areas.
The UN also reports that an estimated 3.5 million people are in need of food assistance, of which 1.4 million need priority assistance, while 4.2 million are urgently in need of water, sanitation and hygiene support.
While it’s far too early to know if these estimates will hold, clearly the Nepal earthquake is as catastrophe modeling firm RMS says: “shaping up to be the worst natural disaster this calendar year, particularly because Nepal is remote, economically challenged, and not resilient to an earthquake of this magnitude.”
Indeed, the earthquake is expected to inflict at least $5 billion in total economic losses — that’s more than 20 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product — and could end up exceeding the country’s GDP.
Not surprisingly, insurance penetration in what is one of the world’s poorest nations is extremely low, as the I.I.I. explains here.
Information on the most deadly and the most costly world earthquakes is posted here.