25 April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake ravaged Nepal, killing 9000 people and reducing the humble homes of thousands to dust in mere seconds. Now, two years and nearly 4.1 billion dollars later. What has been done for the Nepalese citizens stricken by disaster?
Almost immediately after the disaster, an optimistic plan for the future was launched under the name “well-planned resilient settlements and a prosperous society” was published. Unfortunately, almost no cooperation between government officials and donors, a shortage of civic engagement and a lack of understanding of local needs means that almost nothing has been accomplished.
Less than five percent of the homes have been rebuilt and the vast majority of the population has spent two cold winters in makeshift tents. There is plenty of blame to go around but the situation remains dire.
The Main Issues
The damage done by the earthquakes was extensive. Infrastructure, homes and temples destroyed by the natural disaster. Total assessment remains inconclusive. Immediately after the disaster, the international community came together in support and donated a grand total of $4.1 billion.
On paper that seems to be more than enough. Estimates predict a sum of $9.4 billion required. So far, government estimates counted 626,940 homes that needing rebuilding. Although officials are still yet to count all the districts. Actual numbers could be much higher.
International governments have pledged $4.2 billion in construction aid, but the Nepalese government has no way to source the rest of the needed money and is relying on foreign governments for that as well.
Mount Everest received significant effects. The earthquake setoff an avalanche that claimed the lives of 19 people and decimated base camp. Climbing season 2015 was cancelled, climbers were welcomed back in 2016 to attempt their scale the world’s highest mountain.
Overall, a lack of transparency in bureaucracy is a major problem. Most locals being unaware of where to get help and how to move forward. There are countless horror stories that could easily been avoided if the general public, especially poor and disadvantaged, had been given access to more information.
Has There Been Progress?
After the international community donated $4.1 billion to Nepal, the plan was to add this to local revenue. Plans were then to distribute money to locals to help rebuild their homes. To date 12% of the money is distributed, only 544,996 families received their first payments. 20,889 homes or 3.2% of actual homes now rebuilt. According to the National Reconstruction Authority.
As for the rest of the families who lost their homes, progress has been terribly slow. Many spent two harsh winters in bamboo tents and huts. Some families have had to travel for days to get to government offices to sign for the promised compensation.
But lack of raw materials mean that even families who have received compensation are unable to rebuild their homes. Some families have been able to build foundations, but must wait months for officials to come and inspect the work so that they can receive the next part of their payment to continue building.
Since the earthquake, Nepal has endured two shifts in administrations, political disagreements and countless demonstrations by ethnic minority groups. The fact of the matter is that there aren’t enough supplies. Government officials are slow reacting leading to heightened tensions and eventual conflicts.
Heightened Tension created food supplies blocked at the borders for months in 2015 and further in 2016. It took nearly 8 months for a National Reconstruction Administration formation. Only then to sort out its policies and pay out plans, and another 3 months to sort out leadership.
Are People Coping?
The road moving forward has been long and arduous for Nepal. A vast population effectively rendered homeless from the earthquake. They have coped by building makeshift shelters. The common way of creating these shelters have been by using tarpaulin sheets and corrugated tin. The sad reality however, is that these shelters offer little protection from the elements and various types of vermin.
The government promised $2,910 to each disposed family. To date 87% percent of the affected population has received the first installment of $485. Banks have yet to finalize the low interest rates that they would charge on loans on top of the aid money.
But many people lost their jobs as well as their homes. Farmers are selling their land to build homes and others are taking out high interest loans to start over. This will have a long-term effect on the economy and slows down recovery in the long run.
Non-profit aid groups have stepped in and offer many people food, medicine and resources to rebuild. These efforts have been helpful and so many are so grateful. However, there are villages that remain isolated due to their location. Those in remote areas, especially in the mountains are yet to receive any help at all.
The best way that international organizations can help is by aiding in the fight against corruption and lack of information and cooperation. Corruption is at the root of the problem. Until resolved then the situation will not quickly improve for many.
Many people appear to be getting on with life as normal, they seem to have adapted to their conditions. But it is sad that they have had to. All around them, reminders of the disaster are evident. Whether it’s snaking cracks in the walls large enough to stick your arm into, or the silent air where a revered temple once stood.
There are many challenges moving forward, but only by working together can this resilient country remedy the extent of the damage.