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The forgotten and forsaken

Thursday, May 7th, 2015
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ERIC MUNCH in GORKHA

Barpak Village

Barpak Village

Two weeks after the earthquake, global media attention is gradually losing its focus on Nepal. Although there has been some coverage of remote areas, the coverage of media and aid has so far focused on Kathmandu.

And as Sindhupalchok has dominated the headlines because of the sheer numbers killed there, Gorkha and Lamjung which were right at the epicentre remains in the shadows.

A settlement near Balua that was completely flattened.

A settlement near Balua that was completely flattened.

On these mountains, villages after villages have been reduced to rubble. Everyone has lost a relative, a friend or a neighbour, or all of them. The villagers can tell stories about each landslide, each collapsed household and who lies beneath them.

In Kulgaun, Saurpani VDC, for instance, there is barely a house still standing. A close walk along the side of the hill away from it lies Pokhari, in the neighbouring VDC of Barpak where only tin roofs are visible among piles of bricks and rocks. Most of what remains from the school there is the door, still standing straight while the walls and the roof have collapsed all around it.

What remains of the Jaubari School in Gorkha.

What remains of the Jaubari School in Gorkha.

The lack of help in this area can be explained by the topography, rendering almost impossible any form of large scale help. Landslides have badly damaged the roads, when they have not completely destroyed them, and even these roads don’t go high enough to reach some of the most affected villages. Through alternative routes, several convoys carrying relief packages have managed to reach these villages, although irregularly. Most of them being the result of relatively small initiatives, they target small communities, often chosen with what can seem to be very arbitrary criteria, based on the results of a preliminary needs assessment mission and the insurance that the village in question hasn’t already received sufficient help from anyone else.

The different actors of the help in the region all take part in this disparate and unorganised help effort. From down in the valley, it seems as if some organisations just picked a village at random and decided to help them, some villages receiving aid from multiple sources while others are simply left behind.

A boy stands infront of the rubble of his house where six people were buried.

A boy stands infront of the rubble of his house where six people were buried.

The army occasionally drops care packages directly from helicopters, but it is far from bringing anything more than temporary relief to whoever gets to it first. Helicopters come and go incessantly, carrying out the same type of operations, only with more accuracy. Finally, non-governmental organisations, local or foreign, do their best to dispatch bags of rice, cooking utensils and blankets by land. The latter have the advantage of being in direct contact with the people they are helping, but their limited authority makes easy targets of their convoys, forcing them to coordinate their efforts with local armed police forces.

Local sources have reported several attempts by locals — frustrated by the lack of help —at diverting convoys from their initial target and take the supplies for themselves by coercion or theft. Armed forces personnel in Balua even mentioned a case in which villagers burnt down supplies when they were told that they would benefit another village. Also, it is not uncommon to see groups arrive with supplies that do not correspond to what the affected people need the most.

As time passes, attention will fade even more and those communities, which were already vulnerable before the earthquake might sink into oblivion if efforts to help them is not maintained and intensified. Attention tends to fade away, but problems remain, each passing day bringing its lot of new challenges to these people.

Read also:

Cast aside and forgotten 

Crossing hills to reach aid

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3 Responses to “The forgotten and forsaken”

  1. david seddon on Says:

    media coverage of the ‘remoter’ areas has improved these last few days, especially the social media, but it should be recognised that even many places closer to the capital have often been ignored and or forgotten – at least bypassed. The main concern must be that there appears to be such poor coordination.

    It is understandable and correct in principle that local govt, police and army orchestrate the relief effort, but only if they help rather than hinder the multiple efforts by others , foreign agencies, local NGOs and individual or private initiatives – coordinate a collaborative effort not try to control and channel all initiatives into one pattern.

    the CDO and LDO and district disaster relief committees should be the mechanism for coordination, but all too often they are not effective or actually inoperative, and often remote from many of the most affected areas, in which case they should give the go ahead to others, but record and plan and work together

  2. David Seddon on Says:

    This is when governments and large donors need to step up their efforts.

  3. Dr. David on Says:

    We grieve with you about the earthquake losses. We remember our 3 years working at Amp Pipal Hospital. I still believe that God wants to show how much He cares for the people of Nepal, but it seems the forces of evil have had a small victory just now.

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