By Kathleen Hendricks, Special to the ASSIST News Service
KATHMANDU, NEPAL (ANS – September 19, 2015) — According to the United Nations, Nepal is still in crisis following the April 25th and May 12th 7.9 and 7.3 earthquakes. UN rep Jaimie Goldrick says, “The emergency is not over yet.”
To date, 210 million USD is received in aid and another 222 million dollars provided directly to the Nepal government. Just two weeks ago Nepal developed the Reconstruction Authority with funds of 4 billion US dollars. The Nepal government has yet to arrange the reception of all the monies pledged by foreign governments.
The monsoon rains which began shortly after the quake and weekly powerful aftershocks continue to slow the rebuilding efforts. On August 23rd a powerful aftershock of 5.1, followed by two aftershocks of over 4.0 just this week, rocked already hard hit regions. Since the big quake in April, 394 aftershocks of 4.0 and above have been recorded.
Approximately 4% of earthquake relief funds have been distributed to people in the worst affected areas of Dolka, Sindupulchowk, Ramechap, Gorkha and Dhading. Most of the funds distributed were for food and medical supplies. In many of the hard hit districts over 1000 families have not received any government aid yet.
Kathmandu residents are also yet to receive aid beyond food and medical care. The government ordered damaged houses to be demolished with a promise of $2,500 to rebuild each home. Residents are saying that now the government has lowered the figure to only $250 emergency aid to each household, which they have not received yet. In the capitol there has been a lots of theft and looting as a result of the government forcing people out of damaged homes to live in tent cities.
People are no longer waiting on the government aid but borrowing funds and coming together to aid each other. One pastor built eleven zinc plate bamboo houses for his church family and Hindu neighbors. He is seeking land to build nine additional homes for others still living outside under the monsoon rains. Fifty percent of the people affected by the earthquake in Kathmandu are still living outdoors. People are also building low cost sand bag houses that are more earthquake resistant and a lots less expensive than the all brick homes.
Landslides continue as less than a month ago as six people were killed in a village when three temporary shelters were swept away. The monsoon rains have increased the landslides and made them much more dangerous. Entire villages continue to face the increased risk of landslides.
The government has been occupied with drafting a constitution as quickly as possible to help with stability in the area. However, their good intentions turned for the worse as soon as the draft was publicized, as opponents of the new re- districting took to the streets in protest as well as non-Hindu groups protesting anti-conversion laws being promoted in the new document. The religious protests in Kathmandu were mostly peaceful.
In the far east and far west protests against redistricting of marginalized people became violent after police interfered. The next day a mob of over 2000 rioted, burning police stations etc. This left at least 40 people dead including nine police officers murdered by spears, knives, burning etc. and many people, including children were killed as a result of curfew and burning of houses.
Today many people are suffering due to lack of food and medicine as a result of the unrest, as food supplies have been prohibited from being brought into the regions. Schools have also been closed since the earthquake.
One month after the draft, the final constitution was approved just this past Wednesday with two thirds majority vote after leaders of the three largest parties UML, CPN Maoist and Nepali Congress held talks with marginalized groups regarding redistricting. The non- conversion bill was omitted and the country continues to be a secular nation rather than a Hindu only nation. Hindu extremists burned two churches as a result.
The constitution is expected to be promulgated Sunday September 20th. The people are cautiously optimistic and hope that life will return to normal as much as possible after Sunday. Within three weeks Nepal should have a new Prime Minister, new President and new Ministers selected by parliament in establishing a new government.
However, as long as Nepal operates with a multi-party system of government there is sure to be some unrest from time to time as various groups agitate and voice their rights.
Sources: Various Nepalese newspapers
Photo caption: 1) Shocking damage sustained during the earthquake. 2) Reconstruction in Nepal after the earthquake. 3) Nepalese demonstrators.
About the writer: Kathleen Hendricks is a freelance writer living in Southeast Asia.
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