Kathmandu: corruption and abuse cast a shadow on quake aid management
by Christopher Sharma

Almost a year after the earthquake, thousands of people still live in emergency conditions, without electricity, water, and basic health services. Activists and international NGOs have denounced irregularities in the use of funds. Ordinary Nepalis complain about delays, inefficiencies and discrimination. The real victims "have not received anything."

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Almost a year after the tragic earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015, killing some 8,000 people, thousands of people are still living in temporary shelters without electricity, water, and basic health services.

The Nepali government has so far been unable to cope with the demands, and the situation is becoming increasingly serious. In view of this, international agencies, including the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) – a human rights NGO –, have appealed to the country’s highest authorities to respond effectively and provide targeted assistance to the needy.

Ordinary Nepalis complain about abuses, irregularities, and corruption in the management of funds. They lament delays, inefficiencies, as well as discrimination in aid distribution.

Dipak Shrestha, a student in Kavre district, is one of them. Every morning, "we stand in line for the toilet, two small ditches, for 30 families,” he said.

Nanda Lal Poudel, who heads the Education Department in the same district, noted that "students do not have the right environment to prepare for exams."

For Mangal Tamang, another quake survivor in Rasuwa district, the problem is the lack of food and shelter, not to mention the uncertain future. The government "has not given us any support," although "we heard of large-scale aid from the international community."

Ram Nepali agrees. From Gorkha District, he confirms that "the real victims have not received anything". Unless you are a party official, "you get nothing," and "the poor" are victims twice.

The persistent atmosphere of emergency is a source of real concern for international agencies and human rights groups, including the ICJ, which has called for an independent and impartial commission to investigate corruption in reconstruction activities.

The ICJ and the Nepal Bar Association jointly drafted a report in which they call on Nepali authorities to avoid discrimination based on "ancestry, gender, ethnicity, religion or political belief" in aid distribution.

The report also noted the lack of a long-term plan and the violation of quake victims’ rights. Political factors are behind the delays and the errors that have prevented the setup of an ad hoc commission to run post-emergency aid distribution.

"Nepali authorities should take special measures, where necessary,” the ICJ said, “to ensure that men and women from marginalised and disadvantaged groups have equal access to assistance."

Yesterday, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli called district chiefs as well as the officials in charge of post-quake management in the capital Kathmandu.

“I am disappointed with the slow rate of reconstruction and resettlement,” he told them. “So, speed up the work.”

However, the situation remains stalled because the body in charge of reconstruction has not yet become operational.