American volunteers help bring Nepalese earthquake victims to nearby medical facilities after the disaster destroyed roads and hampered the delivery of supplies and treatment. Image: International Medical Corps.

Americans Respond to Nepal Earthquake and Gain Insight for Future Disasters


Nepal experienced a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on April 25, and a multitude of groups and organizations from across the US and around the world rose to respond. The US government has contributed both funds and personnel, while businesses all over the US have pledged in over $20 million in support and American NGOs have provided over $150 million worth of assistance. However, the breakdown of transportation and infrastructure as a result of the earthquake has made it challenging for smaller entities to contribute to relief efforts. Fortunately, the US government has sent 500 troops to help distribute aid stuck at Katmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. Since then, many individuals and small groups of Americans have been succeeding in delivering aid to one of the poorest countries in the world.

The city of Los Angeles, California sent a team of 57 to conduct international search and rescue immediately after the earthquake. The city of Fairfax, Virginia, the only other city in the US with a team qualified for international search and rescue, also provided a team. A team of surgeons from SIGN Fracture Care International, a nonprofit in Richland, Washington that provides medical instruments, training, and support personnel in places hit by earthquakes, rushed to assist immediately as well. Last month, a chain of grocery stores in West Texas and New Mexico raised $60,000 in eight days from customers to help Breedlove Foods Inc., a nonprofit, ship one million servings of food to Nepal from Houston, with the group planning to send another one million servings soon.

American medical organizations have been providing tents, as the earthquake and aftershocks caused building collapses, making many people, especially birthing mothers, unable to remain inside. Former US President Jimmy Carter, despite his recent cancer diagnosis, has expressed his desire to visit Nepal this November to help build houses to help further alleviate the housing problem.

Indirect help is coming in other forms, as well. Efforts are underway to improve disaster response from the US after earthquakes using information and lessons learned from Nepal’s quake. Institutions are using GPS data from the University of California, San Diego to build a clearer understanding of the earthquake and to plan future disaster response efforts. The Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance at US Pacific Command also hosted a course including Nepali students to share their experiences with the American military in an effort to be able to respond even more efficiently in the event of future disasters around the world.

Patricia Weng is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a graduate student of the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego.