At midday on Saturday, 25 April 2015, a massive earthquake hit Nepal and aftershocks continue. The trail of destruction is spread for about 150 miles across the Country and it will be some time before an accurate assessment of casualties can be made: some outlying villages have been virtually wiped out, communications are severely damaged and resources are limited, in spite of the flood of disaster relief beginning to arrive. The essentials – shelter, water, food and medical care – will take time to reach those most in need and the forthcoming monsoon will exacerbate matters. As it is, even HQ British Gurkhas Nepal is encountering problems with potable water supplies and is having to feed and support others.
This wonderful country, the home of our soldiers and known and loved by so many of us, has been horribly brutalised and desperately needs our help: we will not be found wanting.
Many of our supporters, be they within the Brigade, Regimental Associations or the wider community, want to know what we – the Brigade – are doing to help and how they can support us. Between the Gurkha Brigade Association (GBA) and the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) we will do our best to keep you informed of developments.
For obvious reasons, it is taking a long time to establish what the real situation is in both Nepal and in our Area Welfare Centres (AWCs), and only since Wednesday morning has coherent information begun to arrive. Three initial response teams have been deployed to Gorkha, Lamjung and Bagmati and each includes additional Welfare Officers, Doctors, Nurses, Porters and Drivers; they are providing immediate medical aid.
Furthermore, soldiers from the Brigade (QGE and RGR) are already en route to Nepal, as are three Chinook helicopters: elements of QGS might follow-on later.
The GWT opened their appeal for the “Earthquake Response Fund” on Sunday and the staff are being swamped with calls and donations, and contacts with the wider Gurkha Community are being established to channel funds. All those involved in both the GWT and in Nepal have been working flat out since this disaster happened and this has taken priority over all routine work.
You will be delighted to hear that, at a GWT meeting on 28 April, Trustees agreed the provision of £2 Million from Trust Reserves in support of either individual or community aid.
We are conscious that the aid we provide will be dictated by what the people on the ground want, but suspect that urgent tasks could include medical assistance for anyone in need and the repair of damaged water systems, particularly in outlying areas, where many were installed by our RWSP staff. We may also be asked to make our AWC network available to other charities and NGOs.
Bear in mind that many of the organisations flooding into Nepal now will move on when things calm down: we will not, nor would we wish to. What aid we supply in the long term will depend on the need and our capabilities but might range from assistance with building repairs (ie houses and schools) to enhanced health care: we simply do not know at this early stage. Suggestions that the GWT will only provide aid to our retired soldiers are inaccurate, for a major part of our work is devoted to the wider Nepalese community, such as health care.
Have faith in the system.
Be clear that GWT is our Brigade’s charity, and geared to operating in Nepal: GWS have unrivalled experience and highly skilled staff, with robust communications and a well established infrastructure.
We will be in Nepal long after the emergency aid charities and NGOs have left, and it is we who will help rebuild the country.
Our charity needs your help now, and will in the future.
You can help by making a cash donation; please do not send clothes or any other stores as we cannot get them out to Nepal. Please support the GWT by donating online to their Earthquake Response Fund or by texting FUND27 £10 to 70070*.
Brigadier (Retd) John Anderson
Chairman of the Gurkha Brigade Association
After enduring avalanches and being cut off for a number of days the Himalayan Odyssey team have now reorganised at Everest Base Camp and will shortly move to Kathmandu and assist in the earthquake recovery efforts.
The team was in two groups when the earthquake struck. Fourteen climbers were at Camp 1 about to ascend for the summit, while a three man support team were at Base Camp. The earthquake caused extensive avalanches at both locations. The Base Camp group suffered one minor injury and quickly worked to assist the Nepal authorities emergency response.
The team at Camp 1 were left with just the equipment they were carrying in their packs to sustain themselves. They quickly regrouped and helped to organise recovering other climbers in the vicinity. They were airlifted back to Base Camp on Monday. The team linked up with the Base Camp party and have now started moving to Kathmandu to join the other members of the Brigade of Gurkhas in the relief effort. The team have a doctor and highly qualified medics and their training will prove hugely valuable.
Nepal earthquake: the damage
Saturday’s earthquake has caused swathes of damage across large areas of central Nepal. In addition to the widely covered destruction in and around Kathmandu, entire Himalayan villages are reported to have been devastated by the initial disaster and its aftershocks. A lack of communications and limited access to rural areas mean that the full extent of the ruin remains unclear.
How we must respond
With our staff’s safety confirmed, our immediate priority is ensuring the wellbeing of our Gurkha beneficiaries, their families and communities. Today, teams set out from a number of our Welfare Centres to trek into the hills and attempt to reach isolated veterans. Our Welfare Officers will equally provide local situation reports for the national response coordination.
Our staff and facilities are assisting with wider relief efforts wherever possible. In particular, our medical staff have been re-deployed to the most heavily affected areas – notably Gorkha, Lamjung and Bagmati (where Kathmandu is located). We will provide all possible medical aid over the coming days.
There are many disaster relief organisations working on the ground to mitigate the effects of the earthquake. As soon as the immediate danger is averted, we must also consider the long-term repercussions of this tragedy and how best to rebuild:
Our Welfare Pensioners’ homes. Reports property destruction are already mounting – we must distribute emergency hardship grants to help pensioners cope with their loss.
Our projects. At times like these, the need for access to water is higher than ever – we must do what we can to ensure that our rural water supply systems are intact and operational. We must equally guarantee the security of our school projects.
Our own infrastructure. There has been significant damage to our Welfare Centres in the most heavily affected regions – we must not allow this to impede our ability to provide relief.
On behalf of the Gurkha family everywhere please accept our deepest condolences for the tragic consequences of this terrible earthquake and its ongoing aftershocks.
We have seen the immense damage in Kathmandu on our television screens, but we can only imagine the impact in the hills, on our retired Gurkha community, and on dependants of the serving Brigade.
I know that British Gurkhas Nepal, Gurkha Welfare Scheme and Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas will be doing everything possible to cope with the immediate emergency, to comprehend the extent of the damage to peoples’ lives, and to keep us all informed.
We in the Brigade and in The Gurkha Welfare Trust stand ready to do whatever we need to once the situation becomes clearer.
Meanwhile the people of Nepal are in the forefront of our thoughts and prayers.
General Sir Peter Wall
Please click here to see the Nepalese (Nagri version) of the same message.
The Charity Commission is encouraging people wishing to help those affected by the earthquake disaster in Nepal to donate only to established registered charities.
It says charities such as the members of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which has launched a dedicated appeal in response to the earthquake, are experienced in providing emergency help during humanitarian disasters.
The regulator says that most fundraising is genuine, but warns the public to guard against unscrupulous people who exploit the generosity of the public by fundraising fraudulently.
It is urging people not to attempt to send cash or aid out directly themselves and not to forget that there are other ways of supporting registered charities if they cannot afford to or do not want to donate. For example, people can take part in fundraising events and activities organised by a registered charity.
There are laws around collecting money for charity in public which are there to protect donors and make sure that the money raised goes to a genuine charitable cause. The commission says there are simple steps people can take to help ensure they give to genuine registered charities. The tips include:
– check for a registered charity number, and check that against the charity’s entry on the commission’s online charity search tool – if you want to give to the DEC appeal, its registered charity number for England and Wales is 1062638
– check whether collectors are wearing a proper ID badge and that any collection tin is sealed
– if in doubt, ask the collector for more information – a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of the charity (please see below for further safer giving tips)
Paula Sussex, the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission said:
The British public is incredibly generous and we want to encourage them to continue giving to people in the most desperate need, such as those affected by the earthquake disaster in Nepal. Our advice is to give to registered charities that have experience in delivering aid in difficult circumstances in the aftermath of natural disasters. It only takes a few minutes to check whether a charity is registered with us – and if in doubt, ask the fundraiser questions about how your money will be used. Good charities will be more than happy to answer your questions.
Top tips for checking whether an organisation appealing for donations is a genuine registered charity:
– before giving, check the charity’s name and registration number – you can verify this using the online charity search tool on GOV.UK
– when approached by collectors, check whether they are wearing a proper ID badge and that any collection tin is sealed
– if in doubt, ask the collector for more information – a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of the charity
– genuine fundraising materials should feature the charity’s name, registered name and a landline contact number – be wary of those that list only a mobile number
– look for the FRSB tick logo indicating that the charity is signed up to fundraising regulation, encouraging you to give with confidence www.givewithconfidence.org.uk
– to check whether a fundraiser is authorised to collect money in a public place (they must have a licence), contact your local authority or, if in London, the police – if it is a private place, check with the owner
– take care when responding to emails or clicking links to a charity’s website to ensure that they are genuine – instead, search online for your preferred charity to check you have the right web address
– after making these checks, if you think that a collection or appeal is not legitimate, report it as a crime to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and inform the Charity Commission
– if in any doubt, contact your favoured charity direct to make a donation
There is a well-rehearsed contingency plan in place within JSP 751 for the casualty and compassionate reporting process for serving personnel, both permanently stationed in Nepal and visiting the country. It also includes the reporting and investigation of compassionate cases, particularly those affecting the families of Gurkha servicemen in Nepal.
Nepal Earthquake Action Plan
There are a number of phases which have been implemented immediately following the earthquake in Nepal on 25 Apr 15. In terms of the casualty and compassionate reporting aspects of this plan, the first phase is the reporting of Casualties amongst serving personnel, both permanently stationed in Nepal and visiting the country. This is now complete, with nothing significant to report.
The next phase, which is ongoing, is the reporting and investigation of compassionate cases, particularly those affecting the Nepal-based Next of Kin of Gurkha soldiers currently serving with the British Army. There are three likely scenarios here, based on how the matter is reported, this could be either:
1. For families settled outside the Kathmandu Valley, notification made via the nearest Area Welfare Officer (AWO) in one of the Districts in Nepal. The AWOs will subsequently report such cases to HQ British Gurkhas Nepal (HQ BGN) in Kathmandu.
2. For families settled in the Kathmandu Valley, notification made directly to the Brigade & Unit Welfare Officer (BUWO) based in HQ BGN in Kathmandu.
3. For serving soldiers outside Nepal, notification made directly by a family member. In such cases the individual should contact their parent unit (or HQ BG) who will, if required, initiate Compassionate Travel procedures through the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), Innsworth in conjunction with HQ BGN.
HQ BGN is responsible for dealing with matters in Nepal, and will ensure that any news reported through its network is passed to the JCCC for notification to the individuals via their unit. JCCC is responsible for notification of such news to Nepalese soldiers currently serving in the British Army, and for authorising any subsequent compassionate travel to Nepal when conditions allow.
This process is well-established and the earthquake has not affected communications between HQ BGN and JCCC. However, communications elsewhere within Nepal are currently not as reliable, which may explain why soldiers have not heard from some family members since the event. To date, the number of reports has been relatively light and, consequently, does not require any additional resource for either HQ BGN or JCCC.
Point of Contact
Personnel with concerns that they have not heard from family members in Nepal are advised to contact their chain of command (or HQ Brigade of Gurkhas) who will liaise with the welfare chain in HQ BGN. Although HQ Brigade of Gurkhas does not have a formal role in this process under normal conditions, it will provide an additional layer of support and advice to Gurkha units.
The Point of Contact in these cases is the Deputy Chief of staff HQ Brigade of Gurkhas (Maj Bijayant Sherchan, UK Landline 01276 41 2757, UK Military 94261 2757 or UK Mobile 07990 860762).