As of this writing, fatalities from Nepal’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake have exceeded 4,000, with the number of dead and injured expected to rise as emergency workers reach more remote mountain villages. Millions in the region are affected—with homes damaged or destroyed, and food, water, medical and earthmoving equipment in short supply.
People have been phoning and clicking to make donations to the international relief agency Mercy Corps; they had given $715,000 by mid-day Monday, says spokesman Jeremy Barnicle. “That money will mostly go to procure essential items that people need now,” says Barnicle. “So that’s tarps and sleeping mats, first-aid kits, water bottles, things like that.”
The money is flowing through the Bank of Kathmandu, and is being doled out to local partner organizations by Mercy Corps’ in-country staff of 90, most of whom are Nepali and were already working on long-term development and humanitarian projects. The money, spent primarily in Nepalese rupees, will boost the local economy, helping wholesalers and stores and trucking companies reopen and bring back workers. Aid groups will also use the money to resupply relief depots in the region that are being tapped right now to get material out to hard-hit areas in Nepal.
Bob Ottenhoff, president of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, says longer-term needs will be harder to meet, with American donors’ short attention span.
“There’ll be lots of people giving in coming days, as long as the media keeps covering the story,” said Ottenhoff. “But it’s very difficult to raise money for planning and preparation and mitigation.”