(Formerly called IRIN) Journalism from the heart of crises

  • Politics prevents Nepal reconstruction

    Six months after a massive earthquake devastated Nepal, people are still living in temporary shelters as political wrangling has prevented the disbursement of billions pledged by international donors for reconstruction.

    Aid organisations are urging the government to activate the National Reconstruction Authority, created to formulate quake-resistant building regulations and oversee the allocation of funds. International donors pledged more than $4 billion after the 25 April quake and another temblor on 12 May. The earthquakes killed close to 9,000 people and destroyed or damaged almost a million homes.

    The government appointed a chief executive officer to the NRA in August, but he has been unable to start reconstruction work, because parliament failed to pass a bill to launch the agency. The government has instead been embroiled in crisis. Protests against a new constitution erupted on the Indian border, blocking fuel imports, while political parties refused to agree on the terms of the reconstruction bill.

    The International Development Partner Group called on the government and parliament “to finalise, as a matter of urgency, the appropriate legislation and take the necessary steps and decisions as soon as possible to establish the NRA”. In a separate statement, the Association of International Non-governmental Organisations in Nepal noted that "winter season is a few months away and many people still don’t have a permanent house”.

    The newly-appointed CEO of the NRA, Govinda Raj Pokhrel, also expressed his frustration, telling IRIN: “Those critics are right. We see a clear lack of multi-tasking in our political leadership. They are busy in one agenda and cannot focus on another."



    Land of tarps

    Instead of sturdy buildings under construction, rural Nepal is a multicoloured patchwork of supposedly temporary tarpaulins. The district of Dolakha, which was at the epicentre of the 25 April quake, is no exception. Residents interviewed last week told IRIN they had received no government assistance apart from a one-time payout of 15,000 rupees ($150) and 100kg of rice.

    People like Bimala Thami have had to construct shelters from materials they could salvage and those distributed by aid agencies. Thami was seven months pregnant when the quake struck and destroyed her family’s stone house. They spent the following days sheltering in their cowshed, laying straw and wood on the floor and trying to stay calm during the seemingly endless aftershocks.

    See: Lessons from the rubble in Nepal

    Thami now lives in a structure with tin walls and a tarp roof built over an earthen floor. It’s an improvement on the cowshed, but nowhere near as sturdy as her family’s former home, and it is not strong enough to protect against the monsoon rains or the coming winter.

    “The old home was more comfortable than this one. It wasn’t the type of place where water is coming in like this, and I’m also concerned about snakes around the baby,” said Thami.



    Political deadlock

    Shortly after the earthquake, the government promised low-interest loans of up to 2.5 million Nepalese rupees ($24,000) to homeowners like Thami who lost everything. The government vowed to set up the NRA to oversee reconstruction spending and provide guidelines for rebuilding houses, schools and other structures in such a way as to minimise the toll and damage in future quakes.

    But now the $4 billion of pledged donor aid is caught up in a parliamentary bottleneck as MPs fail to pass the bill authorising the NRA to begin its work. The ruling Communist Party of Nepal, known by its Nepali-language acronym UML, wanted to have elected representatives at the helm of the NRA rather than technocrats. Opposition parties disagreed with that and also wanted to add provisions to the bill that the UML opposed.

    The hold-up has raised concerns that donors who pledged funds months ago may not deliver on their promises by the time the NRA gets to work and tries to access the money.

    Pokhrel, however, was optimistic that donors would follow through and that the political paralysis would end in time for the NRA to begin work within the month. Staff are already working to ensure that the moment the NRA is given a green light, “we can move very fast,” he told IRIN.

    Nepal has also been crippled by a separate political crisis as protests erupted on the border with India against a new constitution, which was passed by parliament on 20 September. Many in the Madhesi and Tharu communities oppose the size and borders of seven new provinces created by the constitution, claiming they will now be under-represented in parliament.

    See: Fuel shortage threatens Nepal aid as winter comes

    Nepali officials accuse India of imposing an unofficial blockade, which has prevented fuel imports, while India blames violent protests for blocking fuel convoys. Aid agencies say the fuel shortage is hampering relief efforts.

    Mattias Bryneson, country director of Plan International Nepal, said his and other agencies had been forced to scale back operations in recent weeks.

    “The challenge now is with the fuel situation and political issues,” he told IRIN. “That means that Plan, as well as the government and other agencies, are struggling to get supplies, to procure them and to truck them up to the affected areas.”



    Politics prevents Nepal reconstruction
  • Fuel shortage threatens Nepal aid as winter comes

    Almost six months after Nepal was devastated by a massive earthquake, relief efforts are literally running on fumes. Tankers are unable to drive across the border from India. The country is running out of fuel. Will aid agencies be able to stock up remote, mountainous communities before they are cut off by the first winter snows?

    India blames violent protests in areas of Nepal’s frontier sparked by anger over a new constitution for blocking fuel convoys. Nepali officials accuse India of imposing an unofficial blockade. Political differences aside, the fuel shortage is hurting people, especially those high in the mountains who lost a great deal in the disaster.

    About 9,000 people were killed in the 25 April earthquake and another that followed on 12 May. Some 900,000 houses were destroyed or damaged. Many people still rely on humanitarian agencies for food and shelter, but the fuel shortage means supplies are not being delivered.

    “Our distribution to 224,000 people has practically ground to a halt,” said Iolanda Jaquemet, a spokeswoman for the country's main humanitarian provider, the World Food Programme.

    “You have more than 84,000 people in the affected areas that live high in the mountains,” she said. “This is a particularly critical time to reach them to provide them with food and shelter supplies, before the snow sets in.”

    Jaquemet estimated that these people would be cut off from the world in about three to four weeks, and said WFP was therefore prioritising its diesel reserves to target transport to these areas.

    Constitution problems

    More than 40 people in Nepal have died during protests against the new constitution, which was passed by parliament on 20 September. Many in the Madhesi and Tharu communities oppose the size and borders of seven new provinces created by the constitution, claiming they will now be under–represented in parliament.

    India has also voiced opposition to the new constitution and demanded that Nepal’s government address the concerns of the Madhesi community, which straddles the border. India fears that political unrest in Nepal could spill over into its territory, according to Happymon Jacob, a strategic studies professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

    “India does have legitimate concerns about the developments in Nepal,” he said. “Given the ethnic linkages between the two countries, socio-political developments in Nepal would have implications for neighbouring Indian states as well.”


    In statements to media and at demonstrations, Nepali protest leaders and politicians have blamed India for the fuel shortage.

    “The tankers are being stopped outside the border," Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, a Nepali home ministry spokesman, told IRIN.

    But Indian officials have denied allegations that it has imposed a blockade and instead blamed Nepal for its poor security.

    Dhakal, however, said his government could guarantee that trucks would have safe passage. "I assure you there won't be any law and order problem on our side," he said.

    According to Jacob, any insensitivity to its recovering neighbour now could cancel gains made during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Nepal, and strengthen anti-India sentiment in the country.

    “By not reaching out to Nepal before the onset of winter, New Delhi would end up undoing the goodwill it created by carrying out massive rescue operations in the country during the recent earthquake,” said Jacob. “New Delhi's policies should not lead to another humanitarian disaster in Nepal.”

    Winter approaching

    The fuel shortage has hit Nepal at a critical time, as winter approaches.

    “I think it’s very unfortunate that the current crisis is taking place when the humanitarian efforts should be at the peak, to reach people at high altitudes at this time,” Jamie McGoldrick, the UN resident coordinator for Nepal, told IRIN.

    McGoldrick said the fuel shortage was threatening deliveries of “winterisation” supplies, including stoves, insulation material and clothing for those living high in the mountains.

    “A continued fuel shortage would lead to paralysis of the operations on land and air."

    Plan International, which is running disaster preparedness and risk reduction programmes in Nepal to compliment the relief effort, said it was also struggling to keep operations going as supplies were stranded at the border because of the fuel shortage.

    “Our suppliers are delayed. There are long queues of trucks at the border transporting relief material,” Paolo Lubrano, the organisation’s deputy emergency response manager, told IRIN. “If the crisis carries on, we will soon be compelled to suspend the response in the most remote areas.”

    Government services are also being affected by fuel rationing, said Dhakal, the foreign ministry spokesman. The government has allocated fuel for essential services including ambulances and hospitals, but the crisis has hit the health sector hard as trucks carrying fuel also transport medical supplies, which are now running out.

    “Things are getting worse and worse," Dhakal said, adding that it wouldn't be long before people would be dying in hospitals due to the lack of supplies.


    Race against time in remote Nepal
  • Lessons from the rubble in Nepal

    Schoolchildren are easily distracted at the best of times, but imagine trying to keep their attention when helicopters are flying overhead every five minutes delivering relief supplies. The fact their classrooms have no walls doesn’t help either. This is the situation in Nepal’s remote Kiul area, where the devastation caused by the April and May earthquakes has made life very difficult for teachers.

    More than a million Nepalese children no longer have access to safe classrooms, according to the Education Cluster, a group of NGOs determined to rebuild the Himalayan nation's collapsed education system. Kiul is in Sindhupalchok, one of the worst-affected districts in the country, where 95 percent of schools were damaged.

    Despite the destruction of much of the infrastructure, teachers and students here are determined to keep classes going. As in other quake-hit areas of Nepal, children are learning in makeshift classrooms fashioned out of tarpaulin sheets and poles. Aid groups have also built “temporary learning centres" out of bamboo. They are only big enough to hold two classes. Some children are still being taught on the rubble of their former schools.

    “The buildings and land on which the school used to be were completely destroyed, so we bought new land and started to set up a completely new school here so that we could continue teaching,” said Som Jyoti, headmaster of Kiul’s primary school. “The roof and metal frames have been donated by NGOs but we don’t have enough money to build walls.”

    See IRIN's photo feature here

    Lessons from the rubble in Nepal
  • Lessons from the rubble in Nepal

    Schoolchildren are easily distracted at the best of times, but imagine trying to keep their attention when helicopters are flying overhead every five minutes delivering relief supplies.

    The fact their classrooms have no walls doesn’t help either. This is the situation in Nepal’s remote Kiul area, where the devastation caused by the April and May earthquakes has made life very difficult for teachers.

    More than a million Nepalese children no longer have access to safe classrooms, according to the Education Cluster, a group of NGOs determined to rebuild the Himalayan nation's collapsed education system. Kiul is in Sindhupalchok, one of the worst-affected districts in the country, where 95 percent of schools were damaged.

    Despite the destruction of much of the infrastructure, teachers and students here are determined to keep classes going. As in other quake-hit areas of Nepal, children are learning in makeshift classrooms fashioned out of tarpaulin sheets and poles. Aid groups have also built “temporary learning centres" out of bamboo or tin. They are only big enough to hold two classes. Some children are still being taught on the rubble of their former schools.

    “The buildings and land on which the school used to be were completely destroyed, so we bought new land and started to set up a completely new school here so that we could continue teaching,” said Som Jyoti, headmaster of Kiul’s primary school.

    “The roof and metal frames have been donated by NGOs, but we don’t have enough money to build walls.”


    Juliette Rousselot/IRIN


    Juliette Rousselot/IRIN


    Juliette Rousselot/IRIN


    Juliette Rousselot/IRIN


    Juliette Rousselot/IRIN


    Juliette Rousselot/IRIN


    Juliette Rousselot/IRIN
    Classes continue after the earthquake
  • Why helicopters matter in Nepal

    The United Nations warned on Monday that it will be forced to ground its fleet of six helicopters in Nepal – which are being used for post-earthquake relief efforts – unless it receives more funding. The UN says it has received less than half the US $18 million needed to keep flying until the end of October, and the service will cease at the end of August unless it can make up the shortfall.

    See: Our Nepal earthquake coverage in full

    The helicopter service is critical because many of the communities devastated by the two massive earthquakes in April and May, which claimed more than 9,000 lives, are otherwise unreachable. Landslides triggered by monsoon rains have further decimated Nepal’s already-damaged and limited road network, making it even more important that airlifts of food and other supplies continue.

    Here are some key facts:

    • Over the past decade, Nepal’s government has been building roads with the goal of extending access to all 75 districts, but 14 districts remain unreachable by road
    • Helicopters have been used to access 139 remote communities that are inaccessible by road, and at least 146,000 people depend on the airlifts
    • UN helicopters in Nepal have transported around 2,000 passengers and 1,000 metric tonnes of cargo since 28 April
    • The UN is using two French-designed AS350s and four large Mi-8s, Russian-designed choppers that are workhorses in humanitarian emergencies around the world
    • Britain volunteered the use of three Chinooks, large military transport helicopters, but Nepal’s government refused the offer. The Chinooks were shipped as far as Delhi, India, but had to be disassembled and brought back to the UK in late May
    • There was a row in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake over helicopters being prioritised to rescue international mountaineers rather than being sent to help poor Nepalis cut off in remote villages
    • A US military helicopter on a relief mission in central Nepal crashed in May after a suspected fuel problem, killing six US Marines and two Nepali soldiers on board


    Why helicopters matter in Nepal
  • Red tape tangles Nepal reconstruction

    More than three months after a massive earthquake devastated Nepal, hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless as reconstruction efforts are blocked by logistical and bureaucratic hurdles.

    About 9,000 people were killed in the 25 April earthquake and another that followed on 12 May. The back-to-back disasters damaged 284,479 houses and completely destroyed another 602,567.

    The United Nations says around 60,000 people remain in official camps, but hundreds of thousands more are living in temporary shelters elsewhere, sometimes in makeshift tents amongst the rubble of their former homes. Many are exposed to the monsoon rains, and their lives will get even harder if they aren’t able to move into permanent housing before winter arrives.

    Yet, the pace of reconstruction is painfully slow. Authorities do not have enough heavy machinery to clear debris to make way for new structures, and the government has yet to release guidelines for rebuilding using methods that will lower the risk of serious damage from future quakes.

    Without clear guidelines, people are likely to repair damaged houses in ways that leave them vulnerable to collapse in tremors that are sure to strike again in earthquake-prone Nepal, said Amod Mani Dixit, executive director of the National Society for Earthquake Technology, which is headquartered near the capital Kathmandu.

    “There is high chance that homeowners will just cover the visible damage, for example by plastering or by whitewashing or painting, and not mitigating the residual risk,” he said.

    Various ministries are reviewing guidelines that include directives on retrofitting damaged structures and accessing grants for rebuilding, said Ravi Shah, the deputy director general of the Urban Development and Building Construction Department’s housing division.

    “It is difficult to say when they will be endorsed by the government,” he told IRIN. “They need to be approved by the relevant line ministries, hopefully within two weeks.”



    The government also plans to publish a catalogue of earthquake-resistant houses that people can choose from, and will provide training on earthquake-resilient construction to homeowners, masons, builders and engineers, said Shah.

    But even if the guidelines and catalogue were released tomorrow, reconstruction would be impossible in many areas where damaged buildings need to be demolished and debris must be cleared.

    “The rate (of demolition) at the moment is extremely and frustratingly slow, because we don’t have the resources,” said Renaud Meyer, Nepal country director for the UN Development Program. “If we wanted to speed up the demolition, we would need more resources to bring in much more machinery and hire more people.”

    Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs, said the biggest challenge is the lack of equipment, which is particularly important for demolishing damaged high-rise buildings.

    “Given these challenges, we have no estimate of how long it will take to complete the demolition,” Dhakal told IRIN.


    International donors have pledged US $4.4 billion for earthquake relief, but most of the money has been allocated towards reconstruction and not demolition. 

    “It has been very difficult to mobilise resources for debris management,” said Meyer. “Donors have been prioritising funding for things that are secondary and can only be done once the debris is cleaned.”

    The government has promised grants of 15,000 rupees (about US $150) and low interest loans to those who need to demolish their damaged houses, clear debris, and rebuild. But the program has come under heavy criticism from earthquake victims who say it suffers from problems common to Nepali bureaucracy, including lost paperwork, delays and unclear regulations.

    “The 15,000 rupees is not anywhere enough money for me to pay for the demolition and the reconstruction of my house,” said Manoranjan Baidhya, whose childhood home in central Kathmandu was damaged beyond repair. “Given how hard it’s been to get that 15,000, I don’t have much hope to get the loans.”


    Red tape tangles Nepal reconstruction
  • The changing face of disaster funding

    At 11:56 on 25 April 2015, Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati, a Nepalese photographer, was halfway through the last day of an oral history workshop in downtown Kathmandu when the ground started shaking. Within minutes of escaping from the building, she and some friends saw clouds of dust rising from the city. They were coming from the old town in the capital’s sister city Patan. She decided to see how she could help.

    Thousands of miles away, Maia Ruth Lee, a Korean friend Gurung Kakshapati had known since they were both children growing up in Kathmandu, was fast asleep in her apartment in New York. Four hours later, she woke to a slew of panicked texts and emails.

    “For a couple of days, I was in shock and just trying to make sure all my friends were OK,” says Lee. “But everyone kept asking, ‘How can I help?’ I’ve never fundraised before so I didn’t know what to say.”

    At a loss, she set up an online fundraising platform. The next day, as Gurung Kakshapati’s efforts became a community wide response, Lee agreed to channel any funds to her and shared the appeal with friends via Instagram and Facebook. “I grew up in Kathmandu for 13 years,” she wrote. “The situation is desperate. I feel helpless being so far away, but I know that together we can help.”

    This kind of hyperlocal philanthropy hasn't been possible before... We are at the tip of the iceberg of personal fundraising.

    The response, she says, was electric. Within a few days, she had collected $10,000. “I was stunned… I thought: Wow. This tool is really powerful.”

    Lee is one of a new breed of disaster fundraisers who are leveraging personal networks via social media to raise and channel money directly to people in need on the ground. A scan of online fundraising platforms reveals hundreds of similar pages. There are Nepalis overseas raising funds for their village, climbers supporting Sherpa families, trekkers campaigning for communities they spent time with on holiday, and Nepalese doctors looking for support for their clinics and hospitals.

    And the money is flooding in. Indiegogo Life, a platform launched only six months ago specifically for personal fundraising, says 750 people have started individual appeals for Nepal raising $2.5 million so far.

    “It’s been our biggest single appeal to date,” says head of Indiegogo Life, Breanna DiGiammarino.

    Another online fundraising platform, Global Giving, has recorded nearly $4 million raised to date. This is in line with the overall explosion in crowdfunding globally, an industry that grew in value from $1.5 billion in 2011 to $16.2 billion in 2014, according to industry research firm Massolution, with a further doubling projected in 2015. 

    Disillusionment with big NGOs

    Why are personal online appeals proving so popular? One factor, says Alison Carlman of Global Giving, is increasing disillusionment with major NGOs, which were seen to waste money during the response to a 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

    “The backlash that happened after Haiti – it’s made people think more carefully about where they are giving money. People leave us comments saying, ‘Please use this money ethically. I want to make sure my money gets to the ground’.”

    Lee found similar sentiments from an acquaintance who donated $3,000: “I’m pleased to support the right organisation,” the woman wrote. “I donated a huge sum to Haiti but I was so disappointed the money wasn’t spent in the right way.”

    These platforms are also revolutionising fundraising for local organisations, enabling them to appeal directly for support from the giving public instead of waiting for an international organisation to make a grant. Setting up an appeal requires only a bank account, an internet connection and a few minutes. And the money can be provided extremely fast: Lee’s fundraiser, launched on 27 April, had raised thousands of dollars by 28 April, and the first tranche of money was in Nepal by 30 April, just five days after the quake.

    Among the Nepalese organisations to have set up online appeals are Kathmandu Living Labs ($10,000 to date via Indiegogo), the American Nepal Medical Foundation ($468,323 also via Indiegogo) and the #WeHelpNepal platform, a network supporting local peer-to-peer Nepal-based earthquake response efforts, which has so far raised $462,000. Global Giving alone has recorded 70 projects posted as appeals by responding organisations.

    More or less transparency?

    But online platforms can also pose risks. Last year, GiveDirectly, a new online platform using a slightly different model – it sells itself as giving donors a direct link to “the extreme poor” – had donations stolen when a local employee colluded with others to skim money from what recipients were meant to receive. 

    But for the Future of Humanitarian Funding (FHF), an initiative looking for innovative approaches to financing emergency aid delivery, these kinds of platforms are no more open to fraud than other kinds of fundraising, including via SMS or donations to major international organisations. In fact, they could well create new ways to tackle transparency. For example, the Yellow House, the organisation Gurung Kakshapati set up, started a Google Doc – updated daily to show all its spending – and emailed it to all those who donated.

    “On a very simple level we felt accountable – these were individuals who were giving money, trusting us,” says Gurung Kakshapati. On her page, Lee posted frequent updates and pictures of the operation on the ground, including a report of a visit her mother paid to the Yellow House.

    Global Giving offers a guarantee to all donors: “If you are unhappy with the way your funds are used – if, for example, you donated money for a school and the organisation decided to build a well instead – we will refund your donation up to $10,000 as a voucher,” says Carlman. “You can then redirect that funding to something that suits you better.” Because of the potential for scams and misuse of funding, Global Giving vets all the organisations on its platform.

    The influence of online fundraisers at present should not be overstated: The money raised via online platforms for Nepal is still dwarfed by the fundraising efforts of major organisations. Nor are online platforms overhead-free: they are businesses, and take a cut of donations raised. Global Giving USA, for example, levies 15 percent: two percent goes to Global Giving, three percent to the credit card companies and 10 percent to vetting and supporting organisations (donors have an option to pay these themselves ensuring their entire original donation goes to their chosen organisation). Indiegogo Life is currently fee-free, but parent site Indiegogo charges a nine percent fee on funds raised, which drops to four percent for organisations that meet their fundraising target.

    And crowdfunding risks replicating existing problems in more traditional aid financing, FHF points out. For example, high-profile natural disasters are likely to attract more attention and money than the chronic crises that form most of the humanitarian caseload.

    Tip of iceberg

    But those involved believe this model, which has gained ground so rapidly since the Nepal earthquake, will continue to grow fast. “This kind of hyperlocal philanthropy hasn’t been possible before,” says DiGiammarino, who stresses that this is true both for donors and recipients. “It’s about extending the number of people who feel a personal connection to a relief effort. I actually think we are at the tip of the iceberg of personal fundraising.”

    “There is a massive potential for online platforms to allow local organisations and civil society to access international funding,” says Anthony Neal, project coordinator at FHF, who says humanitarians need to put much more effort into understanding new fundraising models. “The framework of thinking in the international humanitarian system is incompatible with the changes that are happening.”

    Lee, whose appeal now stands at over $25,000 from 209 individual donors, agrees: “What I wrote in the appeal was my voice, from the heart. It was about making that direct line from me to another person. It was a personal relationship rather than a corporate one, and I think that was the part that worked. The people who donated knew me and thought, ‘Yes, I want to help her. I want to help her help Nepal.’ And so they did.”


    The changing face of disaster funding
  • Are landslides Nepal’s next big killer?

    Already devastated by a massive earthquake, Nepal is now struggling to prepare for a potential series of landslides triggered by the oncoming monsoon.

    More than 8,000 people died in the 25 April earthquake, which the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) said caused more than 3,000 landslides.

    Click here for our full coverage of the Nepal earthquake

    The danger now is that monsoon rains, expected in about a week, loosen debris built up from those initial slips, leaving already vulnerable communities in the path of new landslides, rockfalls, avalanches and floods.

    Scientists at ICIMOD, the National Aerospace and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of Arizona are using satellite imagery to identify rivers that have been blocked by landslides and could lead to severe flooding if breached, as well as landslides that have already affected villages and could be loosened again by rain.

    The scientists assess risk by looking at areas where intense rain and runoff, combined with slopes destabilised by the earthquake and aftershocks, will increase the chance of steep and fragile valley slopes to crumble.

    They are assembling a database of landslides that could devastate villages, and providing that information to the government. As of 27 May, the team had mapped 545 landslides in more than 60 villages from 19 most vulnerable districts.

    The government has dispatched a team of scientists and experts from various ministries to identify communities that may need to be resettled before the monsoon, and food supplies have been prepositioned in some spots. But officials say they don't have the funds to mount a more extensive response, including purchasing equipment to clear debris.

    "We need a lot of financial resources to buy heavy equipment as the government has been operating with limited resources now," Ramesh Dangal of the Home Affairs Ministry’s disaster management division told IRIN.

    Villagers in regions already finding it hard to cope in the aftermath of the earthquake are worried that landslides could wreak further destruction.

    When his village was destroyed, Bir Bahadur Tamang and his family walked two days to find shelter along with hundreds of others in Dhunche, the headquarters of Rasuwa district.

    “My son has gone (back to the village) to bury the dead, and I fear for him too as we wait for his return,” said Tamang.

    Almost 600 people died when the quake struck Rasuwa, which was the hardest hit of any district in terms of deaths as a proportion of the population, according to the government.

    Data gathered by ICIMOD and its partners suggests that Rasuwa is now the district most at risk from landslides.

    A large landslide has dammed the Trishuli River, creating a lake 100 metres wide and 500 metres long. The scientists warn that there is a high risk that monsoon rains could cause the dam to break and unleash a massive flood.

    The monsoon will also make it even more difficult to deliver aid to remote, hard to reach areas, the United Nations said in a statement Tuesday.

    The UN appealed for more funding to help the 2.8 million Nepalese in need of assistance after the 25 April earthquake and a second one that hit a week later. Only $120 million has been received after a flash appeal for $422 million made on 11 May.

    See: Lives at risk as Nepal earthquake funding dries up


    Are landslides Nepal’s next big killer?
  • Lives at risk as Nepal earthquake funding dries up

    Phulmaya Biswakarma sat on a pile of rubble that used to be her home, watching the road that snaked across the mountainside for a vehicle carrying relief supplies to her remote village in earthquake-devastated Nepal.

    The wind whipped against the temporary shelters her family had built amongst the wreckage, and the sun sank behind the mountains in Nuwakot district, about 100 kilometres north of the capital, Kathmandu.

    Her hope faded with the daylight.

    “I guess there will be no truck today,” said 70-year-old Biswakarma. “It’s been a week now we haven’t received any relief.”

    Many more Nepalese in remote regions are likely to face increasing shortages of supplies such as rice, tarpaulins and medicine, the government and aid agencies warn.

    There was an outpouring of emergency funding in the wake of the 25 April earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people and left 8.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

    But lives are at risk as funding has been reduced “to a trickle,” while the monsoon rains are expected within weeks, making relief efforts even more challenging in a country where many villages are accessible only by foot, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

    The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, as of Monday, it had received only $92.4 million of the $423 million it requested in a “flash appeal” on 11 May.

    In contrast, IOM pointed out that $735 million had been committed within a month of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, while the 2013 typhoon that slammed into the Philippines prompted a $275 million commitment within the same time period.

    See: No husband, no home: Migrant wives struggle in Nepal

    Without more funding, IOM said its contractors would have to stop clearing rubble within 10 days, and medical assistance to people with debilitating injuries would cease. Supplies to build temporary shelters would also be severely curtailed, leaving tens of thousands of families with only tarps and plastic sheets to protect them from the monsoon and the following winter.

    The government’s worst fear is that the rains will trigger landslides that will make remote villages even more inaccessible, because Nepal lacks heavy equipment to clear debris, said home ministry spokesman Laxmib Prasad Dhakal.

    “Our top priority now is to speed up the process of providing safe shelters for the mass of displaced families as the monsoon is almost here, but there is huge shortage of funds,” he told IRIN.

    Providing access to education and building temporary shelters are the main priorities for Plan International, according to Mike Bruce, a regional spokesperson who arrived two days after the quake and spent three weeks there.

    But long-term planning is also important, which will need continued funding, he emphasised.

    “Schools need not just to reopen, but to be safe,” said Bruce. “If we don't take this opportunity to build back better, then we take the risk of future disasters.”

    That risk was underscored when a second quake hit Nepal on 12 May, killing 65 more people and wreaking further destruction.

    More than half a million houses were destroyed and 269,190 damaged either by the earthquakes or the numerous aftershocks, OCHA said in its latest report, published on Monday.

    Almost a million children will be unable to return to school when lessons resume next Monday because their classrooms have been destroyed or badly damaged, according to OCHA. An estimated 2.8 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance and 860,000 of them require immediate aid, the report said.

    See: 'We've given up hope': Nepali villagers wait for the aid that never comes


     Click here for IRIN's full coverage of the Nepal earthquake


    Lives at risk as Nepal funding dries up
  • The identity crisis frustrating Nepal's quake survivors

    Mento Ghale did what any parent would do when Nepal’s 25 April earthquake struck her village of Mailung: she grabbed the children and got them out of the house as quickly as she could.

    It was a narrow escape. Much of Ghale’s village, tucked away at the base of a hill in Rusawa district in eastern Nepal, was swept away in a landslide triggered by the 7.8-magnitude quake. Scores of her neighbours are buried in the mud and rubble – among the more than 8,400 Nepalese killed in the disaster.

    Three weeks on, Ghale’s home is now a tarpaulin tent in camp for displaced people in Nuwakot district, some three days walk from Mailung. She has little left from her former life beyond the clothes she and her children escaped in; it was impossible to salvage anything from the ruins of her house.

    “If nothing else, I wanted to get my citizenship ID - I know how important that piece of paper is,” Ghale told IRIN. “But my house is a big pile of rubble, I would never have been able to dig through that.”

    Lost identity 

    In Nepal your ID card is the key document on which all your rights as a citizen depend. Without it you can’t register a birth, file for a change of address, buy or sell property, acquire a passport or driving licence, sit for an exam, open a bank account, or get a mobile phone card.  

    “Citizenship identification [cards are] vital to access services, it really is the basic document necessary to make other documents,” said lawyer Sushama Gautam of the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), a Nepali NGO working on citizenship rights.

    Each time Ghale goes to pick up her food rations and relief supplies, she is reminded of her lack of status. She needs other surviving members of the village to vouch that she is from Mailung and deserves the aid: it is not only demeaning, but she worries what will happen in the long term.

    In rural Nepal, most people’s records are stored in the offices of the Village Development Committee (VDCs). Those physical files are what the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD) rely on to issue verification letters to survivors who have lost their IDs. 

    But the quake destroyed 99 VDCs and partially damaged a further 102, according to MoFALD. Ward offices, the basic administrative unit in Nepal one step below the VDCs, were similarly affected.

    “There’s nothing in my village, no house stands, no government building has been left unscathed, no one will even attempt to look for our records there,” said Ghale.

    In a cramped dark office in the capital, Kathmandu, Sushila Basnet waits for her ward secretary. Since the 25 April quake, Basnet has made half a dozen trips to the ward office. 

    She had lived in a rented house for 32 years, but it collapsed in the quake. “I lost everything in a matter of minutes,” Basnet said, including the all-important proof she had been resident in the area.

    Who are you? 

    Barred from receiving relief without it, she has been trying to get a verification letter from the ward.  “I need a letter from here saying that I was residing in this ward and that my house has been destroyed,” she explained.

    But the ward office has told her that they don’t have the authority to issue such a letter, and Basnet does not know who else to turn to.

    It’s an administrative challenge becoming all the more urgent after the government agreed a US$150 grant for quake victims to build temporary shelters before the monsoon arrives in the next few weeks. Since the announcement, the number of people looking for verification papers has jumped, officials say.

    “Verification of earthquake survivors is one of the most challenging aspects of relief work, because many survivors’ papers are buried under the rubble,” said Purna Chandra Bhattarai, joint secretary at MoFALD.  

    The ministry is working on issuing temporary identification cards, but in the meantime NGOs are stepping forward to help citizens through the administrative maze of applying for missing official papers.

    Babu Raja Shakya and his team from the Disaster Relief Law Clinic, set up by the Kathmandu School of Law, travel around the city helping people fill out forms and get recommendations from their wards. 

    Rebuilding the paper trail 

    “The process of rebuilding lives in legal papers sounds arduous because we think that all paper trails have disappeared with the earthquake,” said Shakya. “But there’s always a copy here or there—in school, at the VDC office, that one can unearth and start building from there.”

    FWLD’s Gautam believes it is not so easy for those living in the rural areas who are dependent on the slow paper-pushing VDCs, and highly unlikely to have made and retained photocopies of the original documents.

    “Even before the earthquake, due to the absence of local representatives, the VDCs were already struggling to provide basic services,” said Gautam.

    Nepal has not held a local election in 17 years, and local officials are simply bureaucrats.  “These appointed bureaucrats … don’t know the local population and they have no accountability,” Gautam said.

    Ghale shares her tent in the camp in Nuwakot with Rising Gyalmo and her family, who also escaped Mailung and similarly lost everything in the earthquake.

    “That afternoon, not only did I lose my home, my property, my jewellery, but I lost my identity - and I don’t know how I can get it back,” she said.


    Nepal quake survivors' identity crisis

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