Tuesday, 26 April 2016

One Year On, The People Of Nepal Still Suffer

It's been a year and a day since the devastating earthquake in Nepal that took hundreds of lives and left thousands stranded in remote areas without aid. A disaster like this causes all manner of changes, flipping an ordered and quiet existance upside down in a moment.

You hear a lot of grumbling about foreign aid from certain dark corners of the press and even government, but the fact remains that disaster relief funds are usually raised quickly, and in large amounts. It's estimated that £3bn was donated within the first month of pushing out the call for donations.

But many of those directly affected by the disaster are still yet to see a rupee of the money promised to help them rebuild. After initial supply drops of emergency food and shelter, there has been a big load of nothing for thousands of people who are still living in supposedly temporary shacks next to the rubble of their homes.

The problem is twofold–bureaucracy and corruption. The release of funds to villagers who want to rebuild is tied to a set of restrictions and safety relegations that are nearly impossible to comply to. Houses have to be built according to strict guidelines for earthquake preparedness, and approval is a lengthy process. Many, sick of the wait, have begun reconstruction without waiting for this approval, instantly rendering themselves ineligible for aid. The amount of money on offer is also contentious–many claim that the grants would barely cover the construction of one room, let lone a house.

None of this is helped by the fact that the price of building materials themselves have gone through the roof. Fuelled by a month-long blockade of the Indian border by protesters of a new Nepalese constitution, the cost of basic supplies like sand for mortar has gone up by more than 40%.

The big problem for charities and NGOs on the ground is that they are now viewed with mistrust by the very people they are trying to help. As funds disappear into bureaucratic black holes or the pockets of corrupt local officials, somehow the blame for the slow dispersal of funds has fallen onto the shoulders of organisations like Save The Children and the World Food Programme. A widely shared article in a Nepalese newspaper, Himal Kubar, accused NGOs of hanging onto 40% of donations for administration and salaries. Charities are now fighting a PR battle, forced to defend their choices–salary costs, for example, are most likely to go to the cost of doctors on the ground rather than simply doling out wheelchairs and crutches. As ever, the losers of this fight are the earthquake victims.

Our View: It's terrible to see that, over a year after the disaster, help is not getting to the people that need it the most. Nepal, mired in political infighting, bureaucracy and corruption, should be doing better by its people. At the moment, though, that seems like an almost impossible task.

 

 

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