Nepal Earthquake

The following is a letter about the earthquake in Nepal circulated by Sienna CraigAssociate Professor of Anthropology, and Ken Bauer, Lecturer in the Asia & Middle Eastern Studies Program and Institute for Writing & Rhetoric and the Program Manager of the Dickey Center's Human Development Initiative. An article on the earthquake and the local community's ties to Nepal, including comments from Sienna and Ken, was published in the local Valley News on April 27th. Sienna also published an Op-Ed in the Santa Barbara Independent.


Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

On April 25, at noon local time, a massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Himalayan country of Nepal. As of this writing, the official death toll is over 2,500, but the actual casualties from this catastrophic event are orders of magnitude greater than this number. These deaths are occurring not only in the capital city, but also across Nepal’s rural hill and mountain communities.

In the past 24 hours, the country has experienced more than 80 aftershocks, including two additional major quakes in the Kathmandu Valley and northeast of the capital. Avalanches in the Everest region have resulted in the death of mountain climbers, both foreign and local. Landslides further threaten homes and communities throughout the country, particularly north and east of the Kathmandu Valley. Entire villages have turned to rubble overnight. World heritage sites have toppled. The human loss is impossible to calculate. The Nepali people and the nation as a whole are experiencing this tragedy in the wake of a brutal 10-year civil war (1996-2006) and, now, nearly a decade of fragile peace and political instability.

Although Nepal is half a world away, it is a place close to the hearts and minds of many of you, and certainly of us.  We are deeply concerned, saddened, and moved to action by these events. The work of immediate relief – including for the provision of water, food, and shelter – is essential. So, too, are efforts toward rebuilding and resilience over the long term. In the coming weeks, access to water, food, and housing will continue to be important. As the monsoon begins in early summer, this will bring with it further challenges to everything from clean water to landslides and rebuilding efforts. The fact that approximately 3 million of Nepal’s able bodied men and women are abroad working as wage laborers contributes to the complexity of rebuilding, particularly in rural areas.  

As for directing resources, consider the following three tiers of action, not mutually exclusive:

  1. Immediate relief through a reputable international emergency humanitarian agency with durable Nepal ties. Red Cross, America Nepal Medical Foundation, Mercy Corps are all recommended.
  2. Reconstruction aid, especially to rural areas, through smaller NGOs that have been working in affected areas: Educate the Children; Nepal Seeds, One Heart World-Wide are ones we know personally and trust.
  3. Personal connections: Determine ways to send money through those you know, and ask them how best to get funding to them (western union, bank transfer). If you know one person or one community directly impacted and have a way of channeling resources, do so. You might be surprised to learn how close to home this tragedy has hit, and how direct the need is. 

For those of you in the Dartmouth / Upper Valley Community:
As was the case during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, we must mobilize a response. Given the experiences of the Dartmouth, Geisel, and DHMC in emergency response, we believe that our community is in a position to offer meaningful contributions to the relief effort. Right now Ken and I have written to senior administration and are also working to coordinate with Nepali Dartmouth students and community members, including the owner of Base Camp Café in Hanover. 

For a live feed of Nepal events, we recommend The Guardian.

To understand the geological underpinnings of this event and how it is unfolding, we recommend this blog from the American Geophysical Union.

Please feel free to share this message.

In solidarity with the strong and suffering people of Nepal.

Sienna and Ken