On April 25th 2015, Nepal experienced one of its most severe earthquakes ever. Measuring in at 7.8 on the Richter scale, the single earthquake then led on to an astonishing 120 aftershocks. The quake led to avalanches on Mount Everest, buildings collapsing and thousands of local Nepalese and tourists to lose their lives.
An estimated 8,000 people perished in the wake of the event, with over 20,000 people being injured alongside. It was a disaster on a monumental, national scale and the world cried out in shock. Today, even some time later, much of the devastation has still to be resolved. Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese remain homeless.
Part of the reason for this carnage is simply how widespread the effects were; much of the country was affected thanks to the 100+ aftershocks. Secondly it is important to realize that these aftershocks were not simply felt for a few hours after the major quake; one of the largest was felt on May 12th, roughly 2 weeks after the mother quake.
Lastly it is important to appreciate that much of Nepal is both very rural and relatively poor. Scrambling enough resources over such a wide scale has proved to be a monumental task and it will likely be months – if not years – until the worst-hit areas return to their former glory.
Now though the government of Nepal has made an act of humanity and generosity rarely seen these days. Like so many developing nations, many Nepalese workers have previously left the country to find paid work elsewhere. Many of these flock to areas like the UAE where they work as domestic staff, helping wealthy Emirati’s to maintain their homes and look after their children.
Whilst these Nepalese expats may find earning a living abroad rather easier than back home, they are far from wealthy. Instead, the majority of their earnings are sent “home” to support family members still living in Nepal.
Just imagine what it must have felt like for these individuals living abroad to watch the carnage on television, wondering if family and friends had survived. Consider the feeling of helplessness due to not only the distance between family members, but also the costs of returning home to help those in need. And that’s even if they could get time off work to travel home.
Now though the government in Nepal has agreed to cover the airfare of any Nepalese expat that have had loved ones killed in the quake. They simply need to present a death certificate and the government will issue them with a letter reimbursing them for a return flight to Nepal.
The Nepal Embassy in the UAE is calling for sensitivity from Emirati employers, encouraging them to allow Nepalese staff to return home temporarily to help them support their family in their hour of need. The embassy claims to have received dozens of calls from Nepalese workers claiming their requests for time off have been denied by employers.
Hopefully the work of the embassy combined with the free flights now on offer to expats will enable more expats that ever before to return to their home country and contribute to the clean-up process.