Harry aims to 'shine a light' on tragic Nepal where earthquake killed thousands


Prince Harry has said he hopes his forthcoming trip to Nepal will "shine a light" on the country as it rebuilds following last year's devastating earthquake.

Nearly 9,000 people were killed during the earthquake and aftershocks that struck the country last year and almost a million houses and buildings were damaged.

The prince said the least Britain could do was support the nation's tourist industry and visit as Nepalese men had been fighting alongside British forces since the 19th century.

His comments came during a Kensington Palace reception with members of MapAction, a humanitarian emergency response organisation which helps co-ordinate relief efforts in disaster areas.

It has successfully deployed to dozens of emergency missions since it was launched over 10 years ago, recently working in Sierra Leone during he Ebola epidemic and sending a team to Nepal when the earthquake struck last April.

Harry, MapAction's patron, listened to a briefing about the organisation's work in Nepal and told the volunteers that whenever a disaster strikes there is a "huge amount of interest" before people move on to the next thing.

Speaking about his first visit to Nepal which begins at the weekend, he said: "I think, hopefully, by doing this trip it will shine a spotlight back on the issue, and people will realise that there's still a hell of a lot needs to be done.

"But everyone should know the locals will do their very best to turn the country around, given the opportunity."

Hundreds of thousands are still homeless, living in tents and huts, and they faced the harsh winter weather in Nepal's mountain villages.

Last December, the Nepalese parliament approved laws allowing the government to spend billions of dollars pledged by foreign donors on home reconstruction.

But it has been criticised for delays to the new laws and the formation of a reconstruction authority because of disagreements among political parties about who would head the agency.

During his five-day visit, Harry will meet people rebuilding their lives after the earthquake to learn about the work to restore historic buildings and efforts to prepare for future disasters.

The prince has long wanted to visit the country largely due to his admiration and respect for the Gurkha troops - men from Nepal - he served with in Afghanistan.

Harry added: "Everyone that's been to Nepal says amazing things and the more we can encourage people to go - it's that question of 'Nepal is here now'.

"Since World War One, World War Two - way before that - we've had the Nepalese army, the Gurkhas, helping us out, so the least we can do is repay the favour."