Earthquake Relief in Nepal Could Be Better if Civil Society’s Hands Weren’t Tied

Earthquake Relief in Nepal Could Be Better if Civil Society’s Hands Weren’t Tied

The devastating earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 has caused widespread destruction and almost incomprehensible levels of human loss.

But in the weeks since the earthquake, victims, civil society groups, and international aid agencies have criticized the Nepalese government for making a horrible situation even worse. Many have accused the government of making the provision and delivery of relief packages more difficult than necessary, and complained that while the relief supplies are there, their distribution is uneven and unjust. People who are near government headquarters, or who are close to local political parties, have had more access to the relief efforts, while others have been deprived.

Part of the reason for this is that the government has introduced a “one-door policy” for the distribution of relief materials, meaning that all relief is supposed to be channeled through the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund. This decision has been harshly criticized by national and international donors, many of whom doubt the effectiveness and transparency of such a fund in a rapid-response situation.

After all, Nepal isn’t known for its effective public services, even on a good day. Corruption and dysfunction are rife throughout all levels of government. After the quake, observers in some districts accused politicians of being focused on relief for their constituencies rather than concentrating their efforts on the worst-affected victims and villages.

It’s worth noting that, even amid criticism from various actors, many public servants have been working hard on rescue and relief efforts, despite the risk to their own lives. In some places, communication lines, electricity, water, and other public services have been restored quickly. Security personnel and helicopters were deployed immediately after the quake.

Coordination and cooperation with the government should complement these efforts. No one should be discouraged from responding to the humanitarian crisis. We need to maximize utilization of the resources collected in the names of the victims. This is an opportunity for the government to revive solidarity and support at the local level with the smooth distribution of relief and resources in these communities.

Civil society has multiple roles to play in this difficult situation; it can be mobilized to rebuild communities, rehabilitate victims, and reestablish the trust of government by coordinating effectively with it. At the same time, it is essential to build the confidence of all agencies working to provide support and avoid the duplication of their work.

The local communities, which survived 10 years of armed conflict, have shown high levels of resilience. Some of them have been responding with relief efforts of their own and are sharing their stories of recovery. They have high hopes that the government will help them reconstruct. These hopes must be realized.

The government should engage with civil society to develop appropriate policies for reconstruction, taking into consideration the most vulnerable groups. Only then will Nepal have truly recovered.

Learn More:

6 Comments

Hide

I do not think civil society's hands were tied. This is just a blame game. Even though one door policy is best in several aspect we do not have confidence in our system. But that does not mean government prevented any relief practices. I was in Gorkha, Dhading, Dolakha and Solakhumbu soon after crisis until now and my experience showed that so many voluntary group contributed their part freely. But for sure it is important to coordinate with authorities to prevent duplication.
Civil society were also publicity focused, went to easily accessibl place and comment government is not doing to reach difficult place.
I completly agree role of civil society in such situation should be promoted but we should not forget greater role of government and we should not forget aftermath of overflowing interest of NGOs and INGOs in economy.

I appeal to the Nepalese Government to let aid flow freely to the people affected by the earthquake and work with relief agencies to achieve the best outcome possible. My daughter is working in Kathmandu to assist with humanitarian aid and advised that there are so many willing volunteers to help.

Well the best thing would be one door policy if the services of the Govt. was prompt and efficient - but everyone saw how the situation was handled - it was completely unorganized as there was no proper mechanism to handle such kind of crisis - till date so many villages have not received the relief materials, monsoon is on its way there is no clear plan as how to protect those people taking shelter in the tent. There are too many talks, too many promises but it is all ineffective. So Civil Society should be allowed to operate it in order to get speedy relief materials to the victims. At this time I think both should work hand in hand.

I have seen alliances of non government organizations working very effectively and coordinating volunteering rescue and relief activities in the field. One door policy is a good thing because any wrong doings can be tracked and if in-appropriation of any fund found are punishable even decades later. This is likely to ensure accountability more than otherwise. I don't think this is the only best way, but a better way in a situation of crisis. The policy is not bad in itself but the government's lack of readiness to address the problems is.

You lot want the government to sit back and let the international vultures who were just closing their shops in Nepal before the quake (eg Internews, ICRC, ) to run amok and turn us into another Haiti? Support your government for a change, you don't always have to tow the line of the ones who fund you.

During the initial days aftermath of the earthquake, spontaneous rescue and relief works initiated by individuals, local businesses and clubs were helpful when government was still thinking what to do and where to start from. Now, we are in the second stage of rehabilitation and restoration which should be coordinated by the government. Civil Society should be allowed but they have to be accountable to Nepal government. They have to follow the guidelines and the regulations of the government otherwise Nepal will see the fate of Haiti. American Red Cross failed to deliver what they promised to, even in US during Hurricane disasters! It's wrong to say that Civil Society's hands are tied. Civil Society should support the government and not try to overtake or run parallel efforts.

Add your voice