Nepal Earthquake Update

Information is coming in as charities arrive in Nepal and assess the needs. We will continue to post updates. 

The Canadian government will match Canadian donations made before May 25, 2015.

Best Charities to Support for Nepal Earthquake

In response to the major earthquake in Nepal, at least 15 Canadian charities are fundraising to provide disaster relief. Natural disasters are a time when Canadians respond generously. Given the urgency to quickly get aid there, donors do not have much time or information to assess these giving decisions. The sheer number of charities fundraising gives donors choices. And your choice matters. Different charities have different areas of expertise and different track records in delivering disaster relief. This donor brief is to help you give intelligently.

At this time, please remember disaster relief is very different from international development. Disaster relief requires speed and expertise to most efficiently meet the needs of Nepal. This is not the time to send a goat.

In disaster relief, we feel it is important to help all people. Our recommendations emphasize charities working with all in need, not just women or children.  With earthquakes, the highest priority emergency needs are typically medical, shelter and debris removal. After the emergency, there is a need for infrastructure rebuilding.

Charity Intelligence’s Top Picks for Nepal Earthquake Disaster Relief

  • Doctors Without Borders – specialist in medical emergency as local hospitals are over-whelmed and many people are injured, requiring immediate medical care beyond first aid
  • World Vision – fast responder in the Philippines and Haiti with effective disaster relief programs 
  • UNHCR – expertise in shelter and on the ground in Nepal

In our assessment of the limited facts at this time, Nepal’s needs are moderate relative to the Haitian Earthquake of 2010 and in-line with the Philippines Typhoon. The earthquake affected a much smaller population of people than the natural disasters in the Philippines and in Haiti. We anticipate strong community resilience to build back, making disaster relief donations effective.

Each natural disaster is horrific and needs to be assessed individually on where the need is greatest, the magnitude of the devastation. This table provides quick context for donors.

Donors Tips for Giving to Nepal Earthquake

1. Give to a registered charity. Donating on-line through charities’ websites by-passes scoundrels on the street who have exploited disaster situations in the past. That said, if you have family in Nepal, give directly to those you know in need. Canada’s local Haitian and Filipino communities were highly effective in quickly getting aid to their families at home.

2. Disaster relief requires different giving. Disaster relief is radically different from international development. In Nepal’s situation, aid workers are assessing the needs. In past earthquake disasters, the greatest needs have been medical expertise, rubble removal (opening roads and clearing sites), and shelter.

3. Hold charities accountable. Donors need to give now for the emergency response without much information. Most charities are accountable and publish reports on their response 6 months and one year after the disaster. These reports give donors essential information about the emergency performance of each charity. Charity Intelligence reads these reports. These reports provide an excellent track record of a charity’s disaster response. Of great interest is how quickly a charity spends donations. In emergencies, speed matters. Each charity has a different balance between emergency relief and long-term development aid.

From this assessment of Nepal’s situation and prior research, these are Ci’s Top Picks:

Doctors Without Borders Canada has rapid fast response time. In Haiti and the Philippines typhoon, Doctors Without Borders was first on the ground. Doctors Without Borders focuses on emergency medical aid. In earthquakes, medical needs typically require setting broken bones, amputations and surgery, far surpassing basic first aid. With the number of people reported injured, Nepal’s local hospitals are overwhelmed with injured people.

Doctors Without Borders does emergency work fast. It spends most of the donations it receives within 6 months of the disaster; in the Philippine disaster relief, it spent 52% of donations in the first 3 months, and a total of 77% of donations in the first year. After the emergency response, Doctors Without Borders hands over its field hospitals to local health services and leaves. 

Doctors Without Borders has taken a contrarian approach not to launch a Nepal fundraising campaign. Its relief efforts are funded by unrestricted donations. This gives Doctors Without Borders greater flexibility in using donations to respond to other emergencies.


World Vision Canada, even though it is Canada’s largest charity and with a primary focus on international development, responded quickly and efficiently in disaster relief in Haiti and the Philippines. In response to the Haitian earthquake, World Vision spent 31% of donations in the first 6 months and 55% of donations in the first 9 months[i].

 Before the earthquake, World Vision was on the ground in Nepal working in three communities: Butwal, and Doti East and Achham East on the far western border (not in the epicentre zone). World Vision has been in Nepal since 1982. We believe this local knowledge will get aid quickly where it is needed most. World Vision is targeting its efforts on 100,000 people in the affected areas of Lamjung, Lalitpur, Gorkha and other parts of the Kathmandu Valley. World Vision will focus on providing temporary shelter and distributing non-food items.

In prior disaster relief efforts, World Vision provided direct cash transfers to victims. Research shows this is a highly effective and cost efficient way to deliver emergency aid. Unconditional cash transfers to the people affected by the earthquake lets them buy the relief items they need. Cash transfers get aid where it is needed faster than charities can arrive in the communities to assess the damage and appropriate response. Also direct cash helps local markets and local producers.

Another highly effective program we will be listening for is paying people to help get the cleanup done. This worked well in the Philippines, gets debris cleared and roads opened, and helps communities get back on their feet.


UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency. In past disaster relief responses, providing shelter was one of the most pressing needs. In Haiti, 4 years after the earthquake, 250,000 people still live in tarp camps. This homeless situation is a disaster long after the earthquake. Providing shelter is essential. UNHCR has expertise in delivering temporary shelter. This will be critical before Nepal’s rainy season between May and September. UNHCR is already on the ground in Nepal. 
UNHCR is a new recommendation and, at this time, Charity Intelligence does not have a history of UNHCR’s disaster response. We will be watching with interest to see if UNHCR deploys the innovative IKEA Foundation shelter huts in Nepal rather than UN tents that typically only last 6 months.


Canadian Charities Fundraising for Nepal’s Earthquake Recovery (to be added to).

Charity Ci Rating Comments
Charity Intelligence Top Picks:
Doctors Without Borders 4 star Expertise in specialized medical help
World Vision 4 star Fast responder in prior disasters with cash transfer payments. Operations in Nepal for 33 years since 1982.
UNHCR Canada No Ci rating Expertise in refugee shelter
Other Canadian Charities fundraising for Nepal's earthquake:
Humanitarian Coalition 4 star Fundraising coordinator of major international charities
Charities funded by Humanitarian Coalition:
Plan Canada 3 star Focus on education, health care and children, not housing or shelter
Oxfam Canada 4 star Good responder in Typhoon Haiyan
Save the Children Canada 4 star Focus on children
Care Canada 2 star Working to end global poverty through focused programs on women and girls
Other Canadian Charities:

Canadian Red Cross

$1million donation from Ontario Government

4 star Disaster relief is not a core program for the Canadian charity. Heavier balance towards long-term reconstruction over 5-10 years. For Typhoon Haiyan relief, 18% of donated funds arrived in the first 5 months. For the Haitian earthquake, 11% of donated funds arrived in the first 3 months. 
 Habitat for Humanity Canada 4 star Mobilizing volunteers to build houses. Disaster relief is not a core program for the Canadian charity. Habitat for Humanity (International) has worked in Nepal for 18 years. 
UNICEF Canada 3 star Focus on children
ShelterBox Canada 3 star Disaster relief shelter
World Renew 3 star Funding for 6 Christian churches in Nepal and their communities providing water purification tablets, water filtration systems, food, cooking fuel and tents
Samaritan’s Purse 3 star International development and the Christmas shoebox program for children
Global Medic 2 star Police, paramedic and firefighters, volunteers provide search and rescue, emergency medical teams and water to disaster areas
ADRA Canada 2 star Development and emergency relief
MCC Mennonite Central Committee 2 star Working in Nepal since 1950s with 8 local partners. Emergency response focused on remote areas of eastern Nepal providing blankets, cooking supplies, water treatment supplies and soap for vulnerable families including migrant labourers and families headed by women. 
Humanity First No Ci rating  
Canadian Medical Assistance Team No Ci rating  
World Accord No Ci rating  
Canadian Charities doing international development in Nepal:
Seva Canada 4 star Restoring sight and preventing blindness
Child Haven International 2 star Has a home for women and children in Kathmandu who are in need of food, education, health care, shelter and clothing
Sir Edmund Hilary Foundation No Ci rating Providing medical services and education to Nepal's Serpa community

Note: Charity Intelligence ratings are on the entire organization rather than its disaster relief programs. Therefore, there are Ci high-rated charities that are not Disaster Relief top picks at this time.

Background on Nepal Earthquake

On Saturday April 25th, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale caused significant destruction in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. The Richter scale classifies 7.8 as “major” causing damage to most buildings. This is the second highest level of earthquakes below only the “great” earthquakes that cause near total destruction. Major earthquakes occur 10 to 20 times each year.

The Nepal earthquake has reportedly killed over 5,500 people, injured more than 8,000 and left extensive damage. Nepal suffered a major earthquake in 1934 that killed 8,500 people. Reporters state that the current death toll is significantly less since the quake occurred at 11:30 in the morning local time on a Saturday when most people were not in buildings or schools, rural farmers were outside working in the fields. Other reports say that modern structures held up well in the quake with few collapsing.

Reports state the hardest hit area is the Kathmandu Valley with a 100 mile stretch between Pokhara and Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Valley has a population of 2.5 million people and is one of the fastest growing areas in South Asia with rapid urbanization and modernization. At this time, there is little assessment of damage to the more remote regions since the earthquake caused landslides wiping out roads.

According to the World Bank statistics, Nepal ranks 157th out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, making it one of the world’s poorer countries.

Statistics on Nepal

Source: Human Development Index Nepal 2012.


International Response

The government of Nepal has called for international assistance to which there is growing response. So far, governments have pledged financial support; Canada has pledged C$5 million, UK C$9 million, the US $1 million, New Zealand $1 million, Australia $5 million, with the governments of India, Sri Lanka, and China sending aid.

Getting the aid into Nepal is hindered by the small airport at Kathmandu and significant after-shocks still affecting the area. While some foreign aid has landed, many relief efforts had to turn back due to airport congestion. These efforts are waiting in neighbouring countries to move into Nepal.

[i] World Visions expects to release its donor accountability report on its response to Typhoon Haiyan in summer 2015.



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