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Kathmandu: This was a disaster all of us dreaded

By Shaheen Chughtai

Published 27/04/2015

Kathmandu was a disaster-in-waiting. The densely populated capital of one of the world's poorest countries clings to the slopes of the seismically unstable Himalayas. The city was near-levelled and 8,500 killed in its last great earthquake 81 years before.

I arrived in Kathmandu in 2007 to work for Oxfam. I remember looking at the thousands of flimsy shacks and hovels and the sturdier but still precarious multi-tiered family homes, cheaply-built apartment blocks and ornate temples that give the city its colourful appearance. We all feared what a big earthquake would do.

But Kathmandu was flawed by more than geology. A million-plus people are crammed inside it. Half of Nepal's 28 million population don't have access to improved sanitation and live below the poverty line.

Their ability to cope with a major disaster is crippled by the lack of the kind of economic and social infrastructure that richer nations take for granted. Thousands of Nepalese are going to need a great deal of help.

To support Oxfam's work in Nepal, go to www.oxfamireland.org or any Oxfam shop.

Shaheen Chughtai is Oxfam's Deputy Head of Humanitarian Policy and Campaigns

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