Once again, a natural disaster has struck the poorest of the poor. We continue to see heart-wrenching images of the massive devastation in Nepal: cities completely destroyed, and people buried under the rubble. A number of tourists who regularly visit Mount Everest have been killed by avalanches caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. While international aid has started to pour into the Himalayan nation, more assistance and more aid workers are urgently needed. It is obvious that the country is not capable of dealing with such a large-scale catastrophe on its own.
The Nepal earthquake has made us realize once again how helpless humans are against the forces of nature. But there is still a lot we can do. We have organizations and institutions that can help the survivors. We can at least donate generously to alleviate the suffering of the Nepalese people. And we Germans can do it plentifully because we can afford it. These donations are just as important as the assistance on the ground, because they support the delivery of professional help.
Hold back your criticism!
It is heartening to see the global solidarity with the people of Nepal. We also see that a lot of help is aimed at receiving media attention. For donors, it is important that the national flag or their logo can be seen on aid containers. Irrespective of that, ultimately it doesn't matter where the help comes from; the important thing is that aid relief is coming.
We must also hold back our criticism of the sluggish rescue operations. In a country like Nepal, a lot can be criticized: the incompetent government, the cumbersome bureaucracy, the rampant corruption, and so on. But should we be criticizing all this at such a crucial moment? Does it help anyone?
Even developed countries can't do much
Disasters occur even in highly developed countries, and it is even difficult for them to cope with them. The Japanese people have always lived with powerful earthquakes, and they build infrastructure designed to mitigate the impact of natural disasters. But a massive quake four years ago and the ensuing tsunami killed more than 15,000 people in the East Asian country. This happened despite the fact that the Japanese have trained to deal with earthquakes and tsunamis.
Take the United States, for example, the world's sole superpower. A country capable of sending people to the Moon was helpless in the face of Hurricane Katrina. The whole world looked in horror as the city of New Orleans got drowned by the sea.
These are the countries which can anticipate the disaster long before it unfolds. But devastating earthquakes – now in Nepal and in 2010 in Haiti – wreaked havoc without notice. Of course, the people in these parts of the world are well aware of earthquake risks. But what can they do about it? Earthquake-resistant houses are very expensive, and in the daily struggle for survival, who really cares about natural disasters?
In addition to the acute distress, the long-term consequences of this earthquake will be huge for Nepal. A lot has been destroyed, including cultural heritage sites. It will also affect the country's tourism, which is the backbone of Nepal's economy.
The future will show how long the international solidarity with Nepal will continue. The media always tend to rush to the next disaster - to the next war or the next catastrophe. But let us keep our know-it-all attitude to ourselves and help Nepal.
For now, it does not need advice; it needs blankets, medicines, water treatment plants, and much more. We can help the Nepalese to alleviate the suffering, rebuild the country and reduce grievances. And rest assured that experience makes people wiser.