The 2015 earthquake in Nepal killed over 8000 people, injured more than 21,000 and displaced a further 2 million. One year later, a national workshop was organized with various Nepali stakeholders involved in the response to the earthquake. The workshop provided participants an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and sought to learn lessons from the disaster.
One hundred and thirty-five participants took part and most had been directly involved in the earthquake response. They included representatives from the Ministry of Health, local and national government, the armed forces, non-governmental organizations, health practitioners, academics, and community representatives. Participants were divided into seven focus groups based around the following topics: water, sanitation and hygiene, hospital services, health and nutrition, education, shelter, policy and community. Facilitated group discussions were conducted in Nepalese and the key emerging themes are presented.
Participants described a range of issues encountered, some specific to their area of expertize but also more general issues. These included logistics and supply chain challenges, leadership and coordination difficulties, impacts of the media as well as cultural beliefs on population behaviour post-disaster. Lessons identified included the need for community involvement at all stages of disaster response and preparedness, as well as the development of local leadership capabilities and community resilience. A ‘disconnect’ between disaster management policy and responses was observed, which may result in ineffective, poorly planned disaster response.
Finding time and opportunity to reflect on and identify lessons from disaster response can be difficult but are fundamental to improving future disaster preparedness. The Nepal Earthquake National Workshop offered participants the space to do this. It garnered an overwhelming sense of wanting to do things better, of the need for a Nepal-centric approach and the need to learn the lessons of the past to improve disaster management for the future.