Nepal yet to tap $5.8b aid for quake victims

KATHMANDU • Two months after foreign countries and international agencies pledged US$4.1 billion (S$5.8 billion) to help Nepal recover from its worst natural disaster, the government has yet to make arrangements to receive the money and has spent nothing on reconstruction.

The United Nations estimates that almost three million survivors of twin earthquakes in April and May - around 10 per cent of the Himalayan nation's population - need shelter, food and medical care.

Mr Govind Raj Pokharel, chief executive officer of the newly created National Reconstruction Authority, said the government was unlikely to start spending the money until October at the earliest because of delays in approving plans and concerns about starting building work in the monsoon season.

Nepal has been criticised for its chaotic response to the quakes that killed almost 9,000 people. The country failed to adequately prepare even though experts had predicted an earthquake was likely. And then the government struggled to cope with relief.

Four months later, tens of thousands of people are living in plastic tents, preyed upon by flies and mosquitoes, with muddy paths and no drains.

Madam Maili Pariyar, 50, knitting a purse to sell outside her tent, said she received food and tent materials only from aid agencies. She has not been given anything by the government.

"How much longer do we have to wait for help?" she asked.

Mr Pokharel said the government had failed to spend any money because ministers had still not signed off on rebuilding and aid distribution plans.

He said the government made an error by attempting to pass a contentious constitution that will create a new political system and divide the country into new regions, a decision that has led to deadly clashes. The government argues the overhaul will help reconstruction in the long run by creating greater stability.

"We would have liked it if they concentrated on the reconstruction first," Mr Pokharel said. "That would have been better."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'Nepal yet to tap $5.8b aid for quake victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe