The Nepali government’s decision to declare the post-earthquake relief period over as of June 22, along with its refusal to waive costly and time-consuming customs duties and procedures, could leave the most marginalized people without access to desperately needed aid, Amnesty International said ahead of tomorrow’s International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction.
Women, children, Dalits, Indigenous Peoples and those in very remote areas are most at risk of being left behind.
“Countless people in Nepal are still in desperate need of relief following the earthquake. As the government has pointed out, hundreds of thousands still lack adequate shelter even as the monsoon has started, while food is by no means secure for people who must wait another three months for the next harvest,” said Richard Bennett, Asia Director at Amnesty International.
“Getting aid to those who need it most must be the top priority. In order to expedite the import of emergency relief materials, particularly for shelter, the government should waive normal customs duties.”
According to the UN, some 2.8 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance in 14 of Nepal’s most severely affected districts following the April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks. Nearly 800,000 homes are no longer habitable. More than 100,000 people are living in temporary settlements, but a much larger number of homeless are living in makeshift shelters near their destroyed homes or with relatives.
Hundreds of thousands, mainly members of indigenous communities, live in remote northern areas, many of which are only accessible on foot or by helicopter. They have received minimal assistance for emergency housing, due in part to production shortages and bottle-necks on imports. Many communities may face relocation due to landslides.
The Nepali government has warned that women and children in particular face a growing risk of sexual and gender-based violence, human trafficking, child marriage, and child labor.
In a briefing released on June 2, Amnesty International observed that some individuals and groups benefitted from social and political connections in receiving aid, rather than it being delivered to those most in need.
The organization called on donors to ensure effective monitoring of a gradual transition from relief to recovery, ensuring that those most in need are not left behind. This should include more direct support to the Protection Cluster, the coordinating body co-led by the National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, responsible for ensuring that the humanitarian response protects the human rights of victims.
“We appreciate the enormous challenge of reconstruction and donors will play a crucial role in this – but this must not be at the expense of narrowing the channels of relief. The humanitarian imperative has not changed: we all share the collective burden of protecting human rights by assisting those most in need,” said Richard Bennett.