Our response to the Nepal earthquakes

How would you feel if you were trapped deep inside a collapsed building after a massive earthquake, and the only sounds you can hear are people  the rescue teams working to locate you  shouting in a foreign language? And how can Translators without Borders (TWB) help?

News of the Nepal earthquake reached TWB almost as soon as it happened on 25 April.  We immediately issued a request for translation volunteers and activated a Rapid Response Team, consisting of 25 professional translators and bilinguals.  That team worked tirelessly to ensure that Nepalis affected by the disaster had access to timely, accurate and understandable information after both the first and second major earthquakes and during the severe aftershocks.

Specifically, TWB:

  • translated over 500 terms into Nepali, Newari and Hindi for search and rescue workers and for people monitoring messages coming from the affected populations;
  • translated, approved and sanctioned Twitter messages which contained crucial information about first aid and protection during and after the earthquakes;
  • translated and distributed a comprehensive First Aid document from English to Nepali;
  • translated and distributed ‘after earthquake’ messaging and public service announcements from the Centers for Disease Control;
  • monitored local language media, including print, radio and video, and provided transcripts of videos to help aid organisations improve their responses;
  • provided translations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for their #familylinks programme to help find missing persons; and
  • created a text-to-speech tool for Nepali, specifically designed for first responders.

“Translation really matters,” said Andrew Bredenkamp, TWB’s Board Chair. “The TWB translation team delivered aid by enabling the flow of critical communications in the native languages of Nepali and Newari.”

Heartfelt thanks to all our volunteers, and especially to the Nepali translators, many of whom were also coping with injuries to family members and damage to property.  Our thoughts are with them.

Sue Fortescue

[email protected]