Give them shelter

  • This is no time to make victims fulfill stringent criteria in order to receive relief
Give them shelter

May 20, 2015-

Shelter remains the top priority for the more than 2.8 million people, according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who no longer have a roof over their heads. The government has recognised this, and a few days ago, took a decision to provide Rs 15,000 to each affected family, so that they can buy zinc sheets to construct temporary shelters. It is essential that earthquake-affected families receive zinc sheets within the next few weeks so that they can at least have basic shelter before the monsoon strikes. In addition, swift delivery is also necessary, because many roads will become unusable once the monsoon begins.

 However, several problems have emerged, and these may unnecessarily delay the distribution of zinc sheets. First, there have been bureaucratic hurdles at the central level. The government has not yet been able to formulate working procedures for distribution and for identifying recipients. Second, there have been problems at the local level. The district administrations have not been able to collect adequate information regarding the houses that have been destroyed or damaged. Local government officials state that this is essential to identify needy families. One of the reasons why data collection has been difficult is because of the absence of elected local authorities. Many VDCs even lack secretaries to do the required work.

Still, these are extraordinary times and therefore, require an extraordinary response. The government needs to drastically change its style of functioning if it is to be able to meet the population’s needs. First, it needs to display greater urgency and initiative. It should not be too difficult to formulate working procedures. If there is adequate political will, it can be done without any delay, even within a day. Regular bureaucratic hurdles need to be simplified so that the funds can reach the districts within the next day or two.

Similarly, local governments need to move ahead with distribution, even if it is difficult to acquire detailed information regarding the affected families. It should be noted that most families in the most hard-hit areas have suffered loss and are in need of immediate support. This is no time to make them fulfill stringent criteria in order to receive funds for shelter, for example. In the current time, the government should make do with whatever general list exists of the population in these affected VDCs. As many people as possible should be given the funds meant for shelter. In such a condition of emergency, it does not matter if a few extra people besides the most needy receive support. The necessary funds exist, and more is on its way from international donors. The aim of the government should be to flood each district with supplies as soon as possible, and not to be too much of a stickler for rules and protocols, or demonstrate the deeply-entrenched official habit of attempting to control funds.

Published: 21-05-2015 08:27

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