The 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit the country on April 25 was catastrophically monstrous.
Around eight thousand people have so far been confirmed dead and another 10,000 are injured, some critically. Thousands more are suspected to be under debris in worst-hit districts like Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, Dolakha and Kavrepalanchowk. If to believe preliminary estimates, the country’s economy has incurred as gigantic loss as US $9 billion (Rs 900 billion).
The actual figures are almost sure to be substantially higher.
No doubt, there was the pathetic lack of needed preparations on the part of the state to tackle any big scale natural calamity like the recent quake. This coupled with the gross inefficiency of vital government machineries has only contributed to worsen the degree of devastation.
Of course, for a least developed country like Nepal, the consequences of the Great Quake are too enormous to handle alone.
In the face of such crisis, there has been a generous outpouring of assistance from all around the world to minimize the sufferings of hundreds of thousands of the Nepali people hit by the tremors. Various countries, international organizations, private organizations, and even individuals both Nepali and foreign are doing their best to help in the rescue, relief, treatment and rehabilitation of the victims.
In this context, the government’s move to impose a one-door policy for channelling assistance to the quake-affected people was simply imprudent. Though it is most probably guided by a genuine motive, the decision backfired.
The victims especially in far-flung areas have been shivering and starving but relief materials from all over the world are locked up at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.
The one-window policy entitles only designated government agencies to undertake the vital task of distributing relief materials. But, unfortunately such agencies are too deficient in terms of resources to do so on their own. Such being the reality, the decision of the recent three-party meeting to allow non-governmental organizations and individuals to provide relief on their own ways but without duplicating the efforts of one another or of the government is welcome.
No doubt, there is the need of sound coordination between various agencies to prevent the rescue and relief works from being concentrated on some places at the cost of other affected areas.
On the other side, there is possibility of some nasty elements trying to fish in troubled waters in the name of helping the victims is also high. They might cash in on this national crisis to propagate their religious or other faiths apart from raise funds or materials for their private gain. The government, the political parties, the organizations engaged in relief work, and all Nepali citizens should be alert to keep tabs on such elements. At the same time, relief distribution should be transparent so that irregularities will not further worsen the plights of the earthquake victims.