Novembre 16, 2015

Don’t forget Nepal, again

Don’t forget Nepal, again

On 25 April 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal. Thousands of people were killed, tens of thousands of people were injured, and hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed. A second major earthquake struck Nepal less than three weeks later. Now, in one of the poorest and most food-insecure country in Asia, reconstruction is particularly challenging.


Aid providers responded well. Nevertheless, developing effective plans for long-term-sustainable recovery requires learning from relief efforts to date and a holistic understanding of local population’s needs.


The earthquake affected severely rural and remote areas, especially roads and trails, mostly used to trade goods – like food – and for trekking tourism. One of the few sectors that is supporting development in remote mountainous areas. For instance, the notorious route of the Manaslu Mountain and the challenging Larke La pass have been seriously damaged.


Several hundred kilometers of trails and bridges were affected. Over 3 million of houses damaged or destroyed. The scale of destruction was partly a result of the poor quality of housing in affected areas. Houses and shelters were built with mortar or low quality bricks.


The two earthquakes have damaged agriculture and commerce. Farmers were stuck in villages without chances to reach fields or local markets. Prices soared. 30 Kg of rice jumped from 20€ to 50€, Salil Gurung, a 50 Siridibas farmer, explained while collecting helicopter-carried food aid from the World Food Program. Siridibas is one of the most remote areas in the earthquake-affected regions. ‘This aid helps. But winter is coming,’ he added.


So far, 400,000 people are yet unable to access food properly. ‘In the last six months, we have rehabilitated 735 km of trails between villages,’ Dorothy Hector, director of RAO (UN Remote Areas Operation), explained. ‘We have put to work 16,000 porters, trying to reopen access in mountainous area, invested 700,000 US$ for roads to deliver hundreds ton of food aid. WFP, together with RAO, has been critical for post-earthquake logistic. Not only for food aid. Over 150 IGOs and NGOs have relied on WPF in order to transport tends, construction material, medical equipment, etc.’


Rebuilding trails means to bring back tourism in several remote villages. Manalsu is an 8163 towering mountain. Along the main route to the mountain, in Siridibas, Shyam Gurung, owns the Purveli guesthouse in Siridibas. ‘We, as many families, relied on trekkers heading to Manaslu,’ he said. ‘We hope that the help of international development agencies will open the trail again before the spring tourist seasons’.


The WFP post-earthquake program is now in the middle of phase 3. It will last until January 2016. A study led by the Nepali government found that, in the last October, 529,000 people were in need of immediate food assistance, a significant drop from the 1.4 million people in need after the earthquake. The situation is improving. Nevertheless, the Terai-population-lead blockade of fuel trade from India (with the support from Delhi) slowed down the process. The blockade is a consequence of the protests following the 25 September vote for the new Constitution. Since then, over 45 people have died in violent clashes between supporters and opponents.


Several NGO and IGOs, contacted by A-id have admitted that the blockade and the lack of financial resources have made the reconstruction process more complicated and challenging. ‘In Phase 3 we will focus on cash-for-work projects in order to reconstruct basic infrastructure, bridges, sewage, water pipes, hospital, while continuing with our work on trails and road,’ Pippa Bradford, WFP country director, said. ‘But we hope to get more support,’ she continued. WFP has funds, pledged until the end of December. Many people have called for a new round of financial support for the country in order to invest in new infrastructures and sustainable and resilient development strategies. Once again, nevertheless, it seems that Nepal has been left out of the international agenda.


This article has been produced with the support of the IDR grant by the European Center for Journalism for the project FOOD4.

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About Emanuele Bompan

Emanuele Bompan

Emanuele Bompan is a geographer and journalist and has been involved in environmental reporting, cooperation and development and international politics since 2008. He has worked with La Stampa, BioEcoGeo, Sole24Ore, Reuters, Nuova Ecologia, LEFT, Vanity Fair and MAX. He studied geography and communication at Bologna, Los Angeles, Madison, and Washington DC. In 2010, he won the prestigious Middlebury Fellowship for Environmental Journalism, an award for environmental journalists, and in 2013 and 2014 the Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme (IDR) for innovation in journalism connected with cooperation and development. He specialises in climate talks, environmental disasters, energy markets, food safety and sustainable development.

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