Frustration grows among Nepal quake survivors as monsoon swamps camps

A Nepalese child walks in the rain through a relief camp for survivors of the Nepal earthquake in Kathmandu on July 1, 2015.
A Nepalese child walks in the rain through a relief camp for survivors of the Nepal earthquake in Kathmandu on July 1, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

GAJURKOT, Nepal (REUTERS) - Weeks after annual monsoon rains started to lash Nepal, Kanchhi Maya Sherpa sits inside a makeshift tent on a soggy football pitch, flies crawling over her swollen mouth and limbs.

Doctors say the 82-year-old had developed a fungal infection from living for weeks under the damp tarpaulin, but her family couldn't afford to send her to a hospital.

"We have no alternative but to leave her fate in the hands of the gods," said Sona Sherpa, her daughter-in-law, sitting in the blue and yellow plastic in a camp in Gajurkot village, about an hour's drive from the capital Kathmandu.

Two months after massive twin earthquakes killed 8,897 people in Nepal, nearly three million survivors, many in mountainous, hard-to-reach areas, still needed shelter, food and basic medical care as the yearly monsoon bore down on the Himalayan nation, the United Nations said in a report released last week.

The report said that while government-led recovery was"scaling up", there were still at least 2.8 million people - some 10 percent of Nepal's population - that needed urgent help.

The government has distributed more than US$80 million in aid across quake-hit areas, including US$150 in cash to over 250,000 families, to help make temporary shelters, officials said, and the Nepal Red Cross Society said most of the government's shelter distribution was done.

But the Red Cross also warned that people like Maya Sherpa, who are staying in haphazard camps far from home, risk falling through the cracks.

At the two boggy camps in Gajurkot, where nearly 500 people settled after their homes were destroyed in hard-hit Sindhupalchowk district, diarrhoea, infection and trauma cases were all on the rise, health workers said.

Neither of the camps had drainage, leaving rainwater to pool up around the tents and making snakes frequent visitors.

Several residents said they had yet to receive any cash payment from the government. "We are forced to live like animals," said Ram Kaji Shrestha, a 28-year-old truck driver from Listi village on the border of Tibet.

The economy, propped up by aid and remittances, is expected to slump to an eight-year low of 3 per cent growth this fiscal year, after thousands of tourists fled the country and decimated the crucial tourism industry.

Nepal said it will need US$6.6 billion for reconstruction over the next five years, and has so far received donors' pledges worth US$4.4 billion.

But in a country with a history of weak oversight, some donors worry the funds could be squandered. "To expect the politicians to come and help us is a myth,"said Shrestha. "We don't even want to see their faces on television."