No helicopters? No problem. Mountain porters reach remote quake survivors in Nepal

By Coco McCabe
Nepalese mountain guides help Oxfam deliver aid supplies to remote areas in the aftermath of the April 2015 earthquake. Photo by Sam Spickett/Oxfam

Experienced guides help Oxfam deliver emergency aid to communities in a race to beat the monsoon season.

When I first saw this photo, above, of Nepalese mountain guides bent under the weight of their loads, I recognized the posture immediately. I’d seen it plenty of times in New Hampshire during the three summers my son was part of a crew hired to pack in food and equipment to outfit a string of high mountain huts along the Appalachian Trail. It was grueling work.

Photo by Sam Spickett/Oxfam
But for these Nepalese porters, it’s more than just work: it’s a life-saving mission. They’re carrying tarps and hygiene kits to Laprak, a mountain hamlet 8,858 feet above sea level in the Gorkha district, which suffered widespread damage a month ago when the first of two earthquakes rocked Nepal .

In Gorkha, the quake destroyed up to 90 percent of the homes and landslides have cut off communities. To reach some of the most isolated places before the monsoon rains hit in a few weeks, Oxfam is now working with teams of mountain guides and porters who are trekking in with emergency supplies. Starting in Barpak, the epicenter of the first quake, they hike for four hours to reach Laprak. All together, they are packing in about 2.5 tons of goods—or almost 5,511 pounds.

Oxfam is always looking for the most cost effective way to deliver aid—so more of it can reach more people. With helicopters in short supply, porters and mountain guides are proving invaluable in the relief effort.

“We have called upon the knowledge and experience of Nepal’s famous mountain guides to make sure the aid gets through to those who need it most,” said Orla Murphy, the head of Oxfam’s earthquake response. “Not only is this an effective way to deliver aid, it also provides work for porters who cannot find work as easily they did prior to the disaster.”

Photo by Sam Spickett/Oxfam
In Laprak, families are now living in this informal settlement, pictured above. Oxfam is planning to use more porters and mountain guides to reach other remote communities like it.

“With Nepal expected to receive 80 percent of its annual rainfall over the next three-month monsoon season, the top priority for Oxfam is to make sure people have safe shelter,” said Murphy.

Through our response, which has included clean water, emergency shelter, and food, we’ve helped more than 150,000 people in the seven districts hit hardest by the quakes. Our goal is to reach 400,000 people by the time the monsoon starts. You can help us in that race against time.

Help make sure clean water and other essentials continue to reach earthquake survivors.

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