World Bank approves S$400 million loan for Nepal quake reconstruction

Abandoned houses, damaged during the 2015 earthquake, stand in Bhaktapur, Nepal, on April 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

KATHMANDU (AFP) - The World Bank on Sunday (Jan 21) approved a US$300 million (S$400 million) loan for Nepal as the impoverished nation struggles to raise money to rebuild almost three years after an earthquake killed thousands and flattened homes.

Nearly 9,000 people died when a 7.8-magnitude quake struck in April 2015, destroying more than half a million homes.

Only one in ten of those homes has been rebuilt as the third anniversary of the disaster looms and Nepal faces a US$1.2 billion shortfall in reconstruction funds, the World Bank said.

"The gap has decreased" through this loan, said Kamran Akbar, a disaster risk management specialist at the global financial lender.

"We understand that there is still a requirement but there are also others who are supporting Nepal," he told AFP.

Kathmandu estimated the recovery bill from the devastating quake at US$6.7 billion but costs quickly spiralled.

The government has faced mounting criticism over the slow pace of reconstruction.

Political wrangling meant Nepalis who lost everything waited nearly a year before receiving their first instalment of a promised housing grant.

In September 2016 the government increased the housing grant by 50 per cent, sending costs soaring.

The National Reconstruction Authority is currently distributing the second tranche of three payments.

International donors pledged US$4.1 billion for reconstruction after the quake - the strongest to hit Nepal in 80 years - and the World Bank approved a US$200 million loan at the time.

The deal Sunday also includes US$80 million for a livestock project and another US$60 million credit for vocational training.

"These three agreements are important for Nepal because they boost job creation, including for many women," said Qimiao Fan, World Bank country director for Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, in a statement.

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