I've been in South East Asia for a little over a year now, based in Bangkok and covering a dozen countries.
In spite of frequent professional travels (I sometimes feel like I spend my life in a plane), I also try to find some time to discover the region.
With a few colleagues, we decided to go to Vietnam for a few days to discover Halong Bay.
And this is how quickly things can change in the life of a humanitarian...
At the airport my phone rings, it's my organisation's headquarters. I am informed that there has been a major earthquake in Nepal and that as a member of the emergency deployment pool, I am mobilised. While things are being organised, I am informed that I will be leaving in about 3-4 days. And this is how quickly things can change in the life of a humanitarian... Things are falling into place very quickly. The departure briefings have taken place and here I am on the plane, heading for Kathmandu. Despite many years of experience, this is the first time I have been deployed for a natural disaster and I must admit that it is a bit scary...
When I arrive, it's chaos at the airport. Many organisations are sending material and human aid. The sight I see is quite disconcerting.
A driver came to pick me up and we were on our way to the delegation. Some neighbourhoods have been badly hit, while other parts of the city seem less affected.
On arrival at the office, there is not much time to think... After a security briefing, the work gets organised. I find this solidarity with my colleagues and these bonds that are created very quickly and very strongly when we are in difficult contexts. I am also impressed by my Nepalese colleagues, who were themselves affected by this tragedy. The aftershocks are numerous and are part of our daily life.
About a week after my arrival, on May 12, while I was talking in the office with a Nepalese colleague, we felt another tremor, my colleague immediately felt that this time it was not just an aftershock and told me to get out of the building as quickly as possible.
At that moment, I can't describe what I felt... it was impressive, frightening. Indeed, here was another earthquake hitting the area (magnitude 7.3 on the Richter scale).
We are all gathered in the courtyard, trying to come to our senses, after a few minutes of silence, it is panic. Our Nepalese colleagues immediately think of their families and try to reach them. The telephone network is cut in places and also saturated.
What an example for humanity!
This new disaster has heavy consequences on a region that was already devastated about 2 weeks before, with already weakened buildings collapsing... Our work is resuming, things are getting organised and an inventory of the situation is being carried out to identify the most urgent needs.
I am again impressed by the resilience of my Nepalese colleagues, who are present by our side and who work tirelessly while some of them have just lost everything. What an example for humanity!
I stayed in Nepal for a total of 5 weeks before a colleague took over. This experience taught me a lot and will remain engraved in my memory.