A Staff Writer from Nepal, 6 May : After decades of political instability Nepal – an LDC – had begun economic growth, but without a huge international effort for humanitarian aid and to launch reconstruction following the earthquake, which has affected more than 8 million people, the thousands of people who crossed the poverty line will fall back into absolute poverty.
On 29 April, the United Nations launched a ‘flash appeal’ calling upon international donors to provide US$415 million to respond to the humanitarian needs of those affected by the earthquake over the next three months. “The timing of the interventions remains of the essence,” said the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nepal Jamie McGoldrick. “Although I am heartened and encouraged by the progress of the response to date, efforts need to be maintained and stepped up to ensure vital assistance reaches all the affected, especially those in the remote areas,” he added.
More than 8 million people – over a quarter of the Nepal’s population – have been affected by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake causing large-scale damage across Nepal including the densely-populated Kathmandu Valley. Some 70,000 houses were destroyed and another 530,000 homes damaged across the 39 of the Nepal’s 75 districts.
Addressing the Partnership with Nepal Forum organised by the Asian Development Bank in Baku, Azerbaijan on 3 May, Nepalese Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said the scale of destruction of physical and social infrastructure is immense with hardly any school or health post intact in the most affected districts. “Access roads and vital public services have been obstructed. Landslides have strained the already fragile mountain ecology. Our and the world’s heritage is wounded with some of the most precious architectural and cultural masterpieces in utter ruin. While entire northern South Asia felt the shocks, the damage has been concentrated in Central Nepal with 90% of the houses destroyed in some districts,” he added.
Minister Mahat said that the Government of Nepal (GoN) has set up the National Reconstruction Fund of US $2 billion, with the Government earmarking US$200 million from its own resources for immediate rebuilding of vital lost infrastructures, individual homes and heritage sites. He appealed for an additional US$500 million of aid for immediate humanitarian assistance during the rescue and relief phases. Minister Mahat further noted that after a decade-long insurgency (1996-2006) and political instability, Nepal had just begun gearing up for a higher trajectory of economic growth. “Critically, it is likely that our impressive progress in the social sector such as cuts in infant mortality and access to improved sources of water and sanitation might halt. Tens of thousands of people who had just crossed the poverty line run the risk of falling back into absolute poverty. Our MDG indicators, therefore, could suffer a setback,” he added.
While there has been an encouraging response from the international community, including Nepal’s immediate neighbours India and China, which have flown in teams and resources to aid in the rescue and relief efforts, countries like the US and UK have announced financial aid.
However Nepal – a Least Developed Country – is looking for long-term and sustained support to bounce back from the utter devastation and rebuild the nation.
Now, the million dollar question is will the international community rise to the occasion?