Asia

Nepal donors' 'concern' over end of emergency quake aid

A digger clears a landslide in Nuwakot district
Image caption Diggers work at high altitude and in tough terrain in Nepal to clear landslides

Members of the donor community in earthquake-hit Nepal are concerned that the government is moving too fast with long-term reconstruction plans.

They say the needs of tens of thousands of people in remote areas remain unmet and should not be forgotten.

Nepal is hosting a major international donors conference on Thursday aimed at securing foreign aid to rebuild everything destroyed in the 25 April earthquake.

A UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said donors had used a formal diplomatic procedure known as a demarche, to tell the government directly of their concerns.

UN figures show nearly 45,000 households in far-flung mountainous regions are waiting for urgent supplies like tarpaulins and medicines.

It's an acute need with monsoon rains under way.

Nepal earthquake

Counting the cost

$7bn

needed by Nepal to rebuild

1/3

of Nepal's GDP wiped out

  • 8,832 people died

  • 500,000 homes destroyed

  • 2.8m people affected

AFP/Getty

"There is a gap there," said the United Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Nepal, Jamie McGoldrick.

"The search and rescue during the first two weeks was very impressive and very comprehensive but there has been a dip in the support to the work that we need to do in preparation for the monsoons and the reconstruction phase.

"This relief [phase] is essential for life-saving and that's what we are talking about."

Relief materials

The Nepali government has declared the emergency relief phase over, less than two months since the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit central Nepal. That was followed by a second major tremor on 12 May.

The international norm is to allow the emergency period to last for three months after a disaster of this scale.

Image caption Many Nepalis will have to live in the open in flimsy tents during the monsoon season

Donor agencies say the shortened emergency phase means many relief materials are stuck at custom points and warehouses because they can no longer be brought into the country without paying duties and taxes.

The government has defended its policy, saying almost all places affected by the earthquake have received emergency supplies and the relief phase cannot continue forever.

It has prepared a post disaster needs assessment paper which estimates that nearly $7bn ($4.46bn) will be required for reconstruction.

The Association of International NGOs in Nepal recently asked the government to consider extending the first phase of relief to three months to ensure that life-saving aid, including all forms of shelter materials, can be delivered to needy communities before the monsoon.

"We have not been able to reach the remote areas in Gorkha, Dhading, Rasuwa, Sildhupalchok and Dolakha districts with shelter, water and sanitation and non-food items," said Lex Kassenberg, country director for Care Nepal, an international non-governmental organisation.

"The government is really pushing to go into rehabilitation, and most donors and humanitarian workers have the feeling that we are not out of the emergency woods yet, especially considering that we are entering the monsoon now."

Tough outdoors

The earthquakes have caused more than 3,000 landslides and scientists say monsoons could cause more.

"The wind and the pre-monsoon rains have already damaged the tarpaulins we had been given," said displaced villager Siru Maya Tamang at a makeshift camp in Rasuwa district.

"One old lady in our camp had to spend the whole night in the open and she was taken ill."

Ms Tamang's village and nearby settlements were swept away by massive landslides triggered by the earthquake which killed nearly 200 people in the area.

Nearly 9,000 people died in the country due to the quakes.

"We have been urging all donors to provide us with corrugated iron sheets because they are the only covers that can save us from monsoon rains now," said Ms Tamang.

Government action

But government officials say the situation is not so bad.

"There is no village left where the government and its development partners have not reached with relief materials," said Madhu Marasini, who heads the International Economic Co-operation Co-ordination, at the finance ministry.

"We have also been stockpiling some food grains, tents and blankets bearing in mind the monsoon rains and the risk of landslides.

"We have told the development partners very categorically that if they bring in any rescue and relief materials, they need to deposit them in the central warehouse and distribute them through the coordination of the government, which is always open and tax free."

Image caption Half a million homes were destroyed in the earthquake but this hydropower plant in Nuwakot district is still working

The government has also been critical of donors.

It has accused them of not being transparent about how they spent tens of millions of dollars during the search and rescue operations immediately after the earthquake.

Some donors say relief and reconstruction efforts could go hand in hand.

"It is important to realise that these are two parallel processes," said EU ambassador to Nepal Rensje Teerink.

"The UN has recently re-launched its flash appeal so for us, the humanitarian assistance and relief are still ongoing.

"On the other hand, it is extremely important to find a solution now for the people who have lost their houses and to come forward with reconstruction because the earlier we do that, the less people will be dependent on humanitarian aid."

But it is clear that donors will have to be generous if both relief and reconstruction efforts are to be funded.

It is still debatable whether adequate relief has reached the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the remotest regions.

Everybody acknowledges that the reconstruction effort will test the capacity of a country that has been crippled by years of political instability.

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