"Nepal is not alone" as donor countries meet after the earthquake
by Christopher Sharma
The United States will provide US$ 200 million; the Asian Development Bank, an additional US$ 600 million. India will provide a billion, and the European Union, € 100 million, to give the country some fiscal space. Overall, some US$ 6.7 billion are needed to rebuild. As the monsoon season nears, thousands of people still live in makeshift shelters or out in the open, depending on humanitarian aid for food and water.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – "From the debris of destruction a stronger united and more confident Nepal will rise," said today Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, in her address at the opening ceremony of the international conference on the reconstruction of Nepal, in Kathmandu.

More than 300 delegates from 60 donor countries are meeting in the Nepali capital to plan the reconstruction of the country after it was devastated by a powerful earthquake on 25 April.

At the beginning of the meeting, delegates observed a minute of silence in honour of the more than 8,700 people who lost their lives because of the quake.

After Prime Minister Sushil Koirala took his seat, video footage of the devastation was screened.

The quake destroyed about 530,000 houses and damaged another 278,000. Weeks later, thousands of people continue to remain in makeshift shelters, including more than 117,000 still living out in the open.

So far, aid agencies have handed out some 350,000 tarpaulins in 14 affected districts; however, some 43,500 households have not yet received adequate supplies. In some cases, they have not yet been reached.

In addition to Ms Swaraj, the Conference brought in other major world leaders, including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US ambassador to Nepal Peter Bodde. The latter read a message from US Secretary of State John Kerry, announcing that the United States would provide US$ 200 million for the country’s reconstruction.

The Asian Development Bank will provide US$ 600 million whilst the European Union pledged an additional support of € 100 million (US$ 110 million) as an assistance grant to create fiscal space.

At the conference, Ms Shusma Swaraj said that her country would provide 100 billion Rs (US$ 1 billion) to express closeness of the people of India to the people of Nepal. India, she said, stands “shoulder to shoulder with you Nepal.”

“Operation Maitri was our largest ever disaster assistance effort abroad valued at nearly Rs 400 billion (US$ 4 billion), she explained. “From the debris of destruction a stronger united and more confident Nepal will rise."

"What is needed now is an aid programme that balances the short-term needs with the long-term," the minister added.

Describing Indo-Nepali relations as Roti (bread) and Beti (daughter), she said that culture, religion, tradition, language, literature and mythologies must be strengthened.

For his part, UN humanitarian coordinator in Nepal Jamie McGoldrick said that the focus should still be on temporary shelter, food and livelihoods support, basic medical care, sanitation and hygiene.

“Ensuring the survival of hundreds of thousands of people, who lost their homes and livelihoods in the back-to-back disasters, through the monsoon must remain our top collective priority”, he said.

At the same time, “Timely, principled and equitable relief and recovery are the key prerequisite for any reconstruction effort to be successful”. Hence, “The humanitarian community will continue to support the Government in its effort to address the unmet humanitarian needs”.

Material assistance, including corrugated iron sheets, is still required for 44,000 of the 125,000 families who began to rebuild their homes, relying mostly on their own means.

Aid agencies estimate that more than a million people continue to require food assistance to meet their daily dietary requirements.

More than 900,000 people depend on sustained provision of water and sanitation, including 2,000 communities relying on water filtration kits provided by humanitarian partners.

Likewise, access to safe temporary learning spaces is still required for some 370,000 children.

For McGoldrick, the ability to meet these needs depends largely on funding, which will be made available for humanitarian assistance itself, financed independently and separately from recovery and development efforts.

So far, only US$ 153 million in humanitarian aid, or 36 per cent, out of the 2-million requested has arrived. However, the Government of Nepal has directly received on a bilateral and in-kind basis an additional 0 million in support to post-earthquakes relief.