Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Kathmandu: This was a disaster all of us dreaded

By Shaheen Chughtai

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 or any Oxfam shop.

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

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph