Editor's note: This article was originally published April 26, 2015; it was updated March 15, 2018 to reflect the latest information.
On Saturday, April 25, 2015 a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, just northwest of the capital of Kathmandu. It was the worst quake to strike the region in more than 80 years.
The area was hit with a second 7.3 magnitude quake just 17 days later, on May 12, causing further damage and suffering for those who had survived the initial disaster.
Nepal, well known for its rich cultural heritage and extreme tourism, is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. The damage done by the quake put a strain on its citizens that will last for many years.
Mercy Corps was working in Nepal long before the earthquake. And with expertise in large-scale disaster response and a team of over 100 staff members on the ground there, we were able to mobilize quickly to help people survive the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe. Within days after the quake, we were distributing emergency kits.
Today, nearly three years after the earthquake, we remain committed to helping people rebuild their lives in the years to come. Get the facts, figures and insights about the situation below, and learn what we're doing to help.
Strength: 7.8 on the Richter scale.
Epicenter: Less than 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu, the country’s capital in central Nepal.
Depth: 11 km/6.8 miles. The source of the earthquake was relatively shallow, contributing to its strength and the resulting damage.
Aftershocks: Hundreds in total; two major aftershocks of 6.6 and 6.7 magnitude, and a second 7.3 magnitude quake on May 12.
Worst quake since: 8.4 earthquake in 1934, which killed more than 10,000 people, damaged over 125,000 homes and destroyed over 80,000 buildings.
People affected: Approximately 8 million
Death toll: Around 8,900
People injured: At least 22,000
Number of children who needed urgent assistance: 1.1 million
Number of people who needed humanitarian assistance: 2.8 million
Damage: Homes and historic temples crumbled, roads damaged and communications made sporadic. Avalanches on Mt. Everest. We received reports from more remote areas that entire villages were destroyed without a single home left standing. Water systems in hillside villages were wrecked. Terraced farms and cattle were wiped out by the quake or subsequent landslides, destroying people's entire livelihoods.
Number of homes destroyed: More than 800,000
Number of homes damaged: More than 298,000
Areas affected: Over 50 out of 75 districts reported damage. Deaths were also reported in neighboring Tibet and India.
Most affected areas: Gorkha, Lamjung, Dhading, Nuwakot, Rashuwa, Kavre, Sindhupalchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Sindhuli, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur Districts.
Weather: Annual monsoon rains from June to September regularly trigger flooding and landslides, which can cause extensive loss of life, land and livelihoods, and exacerbate the humanitarian situation. Heavy rains can also impair infrastructure like roads, dams and footpaths.
During the last monsoon season, in August of 2017, floods affected as many as 1.7 million people across 35 districts — displacing 461,000 people and destroying 65,000 houses.
Logistical challenges: The extreme terrain makes getting to remote communities difficult. Many roads were made impassable due to earthquake damage, and new flooding and landslides continue to hinder access. Those that are serviceable are often too narrow for large equipment. In the aftermath of the quake, much of the aid distribution needed to be done by helicopter.
Additionally, between September 2015 and February 2016, a crippling fuel shortage temporarily suspended relief operations throughout Nepal and disconnected people from the resources they needed to rebuild.
Population: 28.9 million people
People living on less than $0.50 per day: About 7 million (25 percent of the population)
Population of Kathmandu: 2.87 million people
Human Development Index: Nepal ranks among the poorest — 144 out of 188 countries
Risk of earthquakes: Nepal ranks 11th in the world for vulnerability to earthquakes.
Percentage of population in urban areas: 20 percent
Percentage of population in rural areas: 80 percent
Mercy Corps in Nepal
Years Mercy Corps has worked in Nepal: 12
Staff members in the country: 100+
Our work: Since 2006 we have focused on protecting, strengthening and expanding resilience strategies and opportunities among the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged families through economic, financial and risk management programs.
Our priorities in the immediate aftermath: Clean water, hygiene and temporary shelter
Our response: Distributed emergency supplies like tarps, blankets, clothing, water purification tools, cooking utensils, towels, mosquito nets and hygiene supplies to help families survive in the days and weeks after the disaster. Provided cash to help the most vulnerable families buy urgently-needed supplies and begin to rebuild in the months following the quake.
Cost of emergency supplies: $80 per family/$18 per individual
People we supported with emergency aid: 135,000
Families assisted with cash transfers: 23,000
Dollars infused into local economies: $1.7 million
Next steps toward recovery
During the fuel shortage we worked to finalize logistics and strengthen our relationships with communities, partners and the government of Nepal, which allowed our teams on the ground to quickly resume our long-term recovery efforts when fuel became available.
Today, we're focused on helping the people of Nepal rebuild their homes, access financial services and prepare for the next disaster.
We implemented a cash-for-work program that employs local people to strengthen hillsides against landslides near vulnerable communities. We're also working with our partners to help families rebuild stronger, safer homes using affordable, accessible materials. And we're helping people access financial services so they can successfully invest in their homes, businesses and futures.
How you can help
- Donate to our Humanitarian Response Fund: Your gift will help people in Nepal recover and support our emergency efforts to crises in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and around the world. Give now ▸
- Stay informed. Read more stories about our work and those we are helping.
- Tell your friends. Share this story to spread the word about the millions of people who need us.