Fadi Itani, Islamic Relief’s director of communications and external affairs, travels to Nepal to roll up his sleeves and help distribute vital aid. As he prepares to fly out, he shares his expectations.
The feedback from both our team in Kathmandu and the many media reports every day paint a grim picture of the reality in Nepal. Today is one week since the earthquake shattered the lives of so many there, and the updates show ever-increasing need.
It felt surreal to be packing for this trip to Nepal. I had to fill out a visa application form. It asked for the purpose of my visit. The options were ‘holiday’, ‘trekking’, ‘mountaineering’. Tourism is so important to Nepal’s economy; in 2013, Nepal made 145 billion rupee (roughly GBP £943 million) from tourism, according to figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council. People travelling to Nepal would generally pack light clothing, sunscreen, a good book to read. But what has been a destination for tourists and holidaymakers has now become a destination for our humanitarian work, and instead I packed hardy shoes, medicines, and a satellite phone.
Islamic Relief’s values include compassion and sincerity, and before I’ve seen anything there with my own eyes, I already feel deep compassion for my brothers and sisters in Nepal. In a world where we have so much, it is unacceptable that they should continue to suffer. And I know from the donations that have been flooding in to Islamic Relief’s offices across the world that many people feel the same. The world has been affected by this tragedy. As I put things in my bag, the radio was on in the background and I could hear the results of the Premier League. Generally-speaking, football is something people across the world have in common. On previous travels, it hasn’t been unusual for children to approach me. “Arsenal”, they would call. “David Beckham”. But in Nepal currently, football does not mean a culture, and it does not mean a sport. It is a stadium that offers shelter to between 600 and 700 people. And they all need aid.
The logistical problems being faced by those trying to deliver aid have already been documented – the airport is small, the roads are inaccessible, the country relies heavily on import so has little reserves. When faced with a family who have slept in the constant rain for a week, who haven’t eaten a hot meal, whose lips are cracked from dehydration though, ‘logistical problems’ might be the genuine reason why help hasn’t reached everybody yet, but it is also a woefully inadequate one.
This view is shared by many at Islamic Relief. The people in Nepal need to survive. To do that, they need food, water and shelter, and we are working around the clock to find new ways to get aid into the country.
The last item in my suitcase is something you might expect a tourist to carry. It is my camera. Once in Nepal, I will be helping to capture the stories of suffering and also, hopefully, the community spirit, the strength and the determination that I believe I will find there. I want to share these with you, not just so you know how your donations are being used, but also because throughout the many challenges and the growing needs coming out of Nepal, I need us to discover the people of Nepal, their lives and families, their ambitions and dreams. Only then will we really be able to stand beside them and help them rebuild their lives.
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