UN agency to hire mountain guides, porters for Nepal relief

AP News
Posted: May 27, 2015 9:13 AM

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The U.N. food agency is hiring thousands of mountain and trekking guides, porters and other workers to carry food, medicine, tents and supplies to Nepal's mostly inaccessible northern villages where two powerful earthquakes destroyed houses, officials said Wednesday.

Richard Ragan of the U.N.'s World Food Program said the workers would carry the supplies on their backs and also would be repairing the walking trails destroyed by the April 25 and May 12 earthquakes. How many are hired will depend on need.

"This is about delivering relief (and) creating safe and sustainable trail network so people can pursue their livelihood and employment. It is about recovery from a disaster," Ragan said in Kathmandu.

An estimated 100,000 people in Nepal's northern mountains still have not received any help after the earthquake. The two earthquakes damaged and destroyed thousands of buildings and killed 8,676 people in Nepal.

The April earthquake also triggered an avalanche at the Mount Everest base camp, killing 19 people and ending the spring mountaineering season. The 2014 seasons was also cancelled after 16 Sherpa guides were killed in an avalanche.

Tens of thousands of foreign climbers and trekkers fled Nepal for home after the earthquake, and the guides, porters and workers who depend on the foreigners for their livelihood were left out of work.

"These people have had successive seasons of difficulties. They have had their work year cut off, two terrible years on Everest and now earthquake," Ragan said.

Foreign aid groups and the government have been transporting food and supplies to flattened villages where scores of people were killed, but the epicenters of both earthquakes were in mountainous areas and the villages there were hit hardest. Some are cut off by landslides, but many northern villages have no roads, damaged walking trails and no flat spaces where helicopters could land.

The workers hired by the World Food Program will be paid about $12 a day, around the minimum wage for a porter during climbing season.