Donors urge immediate action to prevent humanitarian crisis
- Rajesh Khanal, Kathmandu
Kathmandu Post, Daily
Nov 26, 2015- Donors have asked the government to urgently ensure a regular supply of fuel and essential goods to prevent a looming humanitarian crisis and implement key development projects. They were particularly concerned by the plight of the earthquake survivors as there has been virtually no progress in reconstruction. Speaking at the Local Donors’ Meeting held by the Finance Ministry on Wednesday, they asked the government to initiate a comprehensive and strategic dialogue with the agitating political parties to resolve the unrest in the southern Tarai districts as the national economy had been greatly affected by three-month-long banda in the Tarai and two-month-long unofficial Indian trade embargo. The government has warned of an imminent humanitarian disaster due to the Tarai protests and Indian embargo, and the donor community echoed the view.
According to Gail Marzetti, head of DFID Nepal, the current obstruction in the supply of essentials would likely immediately hit around 50,000 people living in the high hill areas as the winter is round the corner. “It is likely to create another humanitarian crisis in the high altitude areas,” said Marzetti. Essential goods have not reached remote areas due to the obstruction, and people have been deprived of medicines too. The government has estimated that the country’s growth rate will reach 2 percent or less, and that poverty will grow as an impact of the ongoing supply constraints. Donors warned that Nepal’s progress in reducing poverty over the years would slow down. Swiss Ambassador to Nepal Urs Herren said low economic growth would directly affect the poverty reduction effort.
“We urgently call on the government’s effective measures to resolve the current political stand-off which has affected the supply of essentials including medicines and other emergency services like ambulance mobility and running of schools,” he said. All the donor representatives who spoke at the meeting expressed concern at the government’s inability to initiate reconstruction projects. Donors have committed $4.4 billion for reconstruction, but delays in forming a reconstruction authority has resulted in zero progress. The Finance Ministry said that not a single penny had been spent from the Rs74 billion fund planned to be spent under the authority. Donors said they were concerned by the non-utilization of the money they had pledged.
Finance Minister Bishnu Paudel said the government had moved to pass a bill on the reconstruction authority at Parliament soon. “As there are only a few disagreements among the political parties regarding the bill, the government has been working to achieve a consensus as soon as possible,” he said.
Paudel said the government had recently asked the National Planning Commission (NPC) to conduct the reconstruction work until the bill is passed by Parliament. According to him, the government will be providing Rs10,000 each to earthquake survivor family to buy warm clothes for the approaching winter.
Roshan Lepcha, second secretary at the Indian Embassy, said the Indian government was ready to work for the reconstruction of the earthquake-hit areas. “India is eager to work in collaboration with the NPC for reconstruction work,” he said.
NPC Vice-Chairman Yuva Raj Khatiwada said supply constraints -- essentials and energy supply in particular -- had hit the implementation of the project. He added that the government would be investing a substantial amount in the earthquake-hit areas soon.
According to him, the government has also targeted including a sustainable development plan in the new plan that will be implemented next year.
Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has requested the government to provide energy to the project construction areas. ADB Country Director Kenichi Yokoyama said they were finding it difficult to implement the project for lack of energy. “We urge the government to write to the Nepal Electricity Authority to provide a continuous supply of energy to run ADB-funded projects,” he said. According to him, the ADB has so far pledged Rs130 billion to implement various projects in the country.