04/22/2016, 18.05
NEPAL
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One year after the earthquake, Nepal still reeling

On 25 April, Nepal marks the first anniversary of a quake that killed 9,000 and displaced five million. Reconstruction requires up to US$ 8bn. Four have already been pledged, but the government is not releasing funds for fear of graft and embezzlement. Meanwhile, four million have no home, power, or building materials. NGOs hope to start work soon.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – One year ago, Nepal was hit by a 7.9 earthquake, its worst natural disaster since 1934. Some 9,000 people were killed, and more than 22,000 were injured.

A year later, everything is still in ruin. “We waited for the government help to build a house almost for a year. For how long can we wait?” said Om Bahadur Ghale, a quake survivor in Barpak, the epicentre of the quake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015. Thousands like him are asking the same question.

The earthquake destroyed homes, schools, Hindu temples, and prisons. In December, several experts said that reconstruction would not be easy and could take several more months, disheartening survivors already coping with the winter cold.

In the Barpak area alone, an estimated 8,000 people are still living in tents set up by rescue teams. Government sources say that half a million people are still homeless. Some NGOs say that that figure could be as high as “four million”.

Delays in reconstruction are due to the government-appointed National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). Which was set up to assess damages and hand out funds from the international community.

So far, the government has provided $ 250 per displaced family to buy warm clothes for the winter and paid $ 400 to each family per dead member. Its experts have also assessed the loss and damage caused by the quake.

"The donors have already pledged half of the amount (bn) and we are in the process of seeking commitment for the rest," NRA spokesperson Ram Thapaliya said.

However, no money has been spent yet. Because of fear of graft, embezzlement, and waste, the government has been very cautious with the purse strings, to the extent that donors want explanations about the delays.

For example, Plan International Australian director Ian Wishart noted that graft has "slowed everything down, so you know materials couldn't be shifted around, fuel couldn't get to the trucks; even electricity was being rationed. This [has] put a tremendous malaise on the recovery effort."

Mr Wishart added that reconstruction was "only now" gathering speed with the Plan's Australian Government-funded reconstruction of schools just approved.

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