News story

Minister celebrates Scotland’s humanitarian heroes involved in Nepal earthquake response

Desmond Swayne commended the efforts of Scottish medics, firefighters and aid workers who have been helping the quake-hit country.

International Development Minister Desmond Swayne praised the immense contribution of Scottish medics, search and rescue firefighters and aid workers to the UK’s relief effort in Nepal, almost 3 months on from the devastating earthquake.

Hosting an event with charity Mercy Corps in Edinburgh today, Minister Swayne met NHS obstetrician Paul Holmes, firefighter Martyn Ferguson and youth volunteer Becky Bottle who were involved in the UK’s response to the disaster.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 25 April killed almost 9,000 people and left around 900,000 homes damaged or destroyed.

International Development Minister Desmond Swayne said:

Three months on from the devastating earthquake in Nepal, the UK is continuing to help the country recover.

Scotland can be proud of the immense contribution its highly-skilled health workers, firefighters and volunteers from charities like Mercy Corps made to this response. Their life-saving work was a vital part of the UK’s response to this tragedy.

Working together meant we could go further and do more to help the people of Nepal in their hour of need. The bravery of these heroes too often goes unseen, so I want to thank them for their much-valued efforts and what they have helped us achieve together.

A team of Scottish firefighters formed part of the UK government’s 60-strong UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) operation sent to help recovery efforts in Nepal. While on the ground the firefighters played a key role in the relief effort, carrying out building searches, providing first aid and helping make a damaged hospital safe so patients could be treated.

Martyn Ferguson from Turriff, Aberdeenshire, was a team leader with the UK International Search and Rescue operation, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID). He said:

I volunteered to go out to Nepal because I have a personal interest in disaster relief and I believe the UK International Search and Rescue team has the skills to make a real difference.

The deployment gave me the chance to help victims of the earthquake and get experience of working in a humanitarian emergency.

In Kathmandu, the team secured a water tower that was hanging over a hospital and putting the building and people’s lives at risk. Our work meant the hospital could get back up and running to treat patients who’d been badly injured.

Medics from Scotland also came forward to join the highly-skilled UK Emergency Medical Team. Funded by the UK government, the team was deployed to Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake to provide vital treatment to people who had been injured in the disaster.

Paul Holmes, is a consultant obstetrician at Forth Valley NHS Trust and lives in Falkirk. He was deployed to Nepal as part of the DFID-funded UK Emergency Medical Team. He said:

I was working at Forth Valley Royal one minute then flying off to Heathrow and onto Kathmandu the next.

My time on the ground was eye-opening. In a makeshift clinic, in a hospital car park, I came across pregnant women who had lost their babies a result of their injuries.

I’d never done something like this before but I put myself forward because I saw on the news how much people were suffering and I wanted to help. I’m definitely hoping to deploy again.

In addition, Scottish charity Mercy Corps provided life-saving emergency aid to people affected by the earthquake. Funding from DFID’s Rapid Response Facility has helped them get relief kits with items such as clothes, hygiene supplies and blankets to over 14,500 people in need.

Jenny Walter, is Mercy Corps’ Senior Programme Officer for Nepal and helped co-ordinate the Edinburgh-based charity’s response to the earthquake with funding from the UK government. She said:

The earthquake in Nepal almost 3 months ago killed thousands and caused massive destruction. Recovering from a disaster like this takes months and even years.

Mercy Corps, with DFID support, is helping the people of Nepal to get their lives back on track and has provided 14,000 of those affected with emergency relief kits to see them through these difficult times, and almost 10,000 with cash transfers so they can rebuild their lives and buy what they need to recover.

Becky Bottle, aged 23 from Edinburgh, studied at St Andrews University before volunteering with Restless Development on a DFID-funded International Citizen Service placement in Nepal. She returned just before the earthquake hit and has helped raise money for victims. She said:

During my ICS placement I’d worked very closely with the Nepali volunteers and built close friendships with them.

I was really worried about them when I heard about the earthquake, especially because we didn’t hear from them for a few days. The girl I’d been paired with was made homeless which was very upsetting.

We set up the ‘Help Us Help Nepal’ campaign to raise as much money as possible for the Restless Development earthquake appeal to support our friends in Nepal and the victims of the tragedy.

The UK response to the earthquakes in Nepal now stands at £70 million. This funding helped ensure emergency aid reached those in need and is now supporting the longer-term recovery of Nepal.

The UK is one of Nepal’s largest bilateral development partners. Over the last 2 years DFID has provided more than £170 million of development assistance to help reduce poverty and promote economic development in Nepal.

Notes to editors

  • The UK response to the earthquakes in Nepal now stands at £70 million. This includes new commitments made at the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction last month. This funding will focus on rebuilding vital infrastructure, including hospitals and supporting women and vulnerable groups to rebuild their lives and livelihoods

  • Britain’s disaster resilience work, including pre-positioned shelter kits, meant that within a few hours of the earthquake, British aid was reaching hard-hit communities and providing temporary homes to thousands of people across Nepal. We will continue to fund this work to ensure people are prepared for future disasters.

  • Of the £70 million, £33 million was pledged for the immediate emergency response in the wake of the earthquake. This included: providing fast-tracked funding through DFID’s Rapid Response Facility so charities like Mercy Corps could quickly get aid to those in need; matching £5 million of public donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal to support agencies on the ground; and deploying a UK International Search and Rescue Team and a team of highly skilled UK trauma medics.

  • Pictures from the visit can be found on the DFID Flickr channel.

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