Away from home
- Resettling people in new places is not enough; their basic needs must be met
Jul 1, 2015-
A Cabinet meeting on June 30 endorsed a proposal on relocating households in 15 earthquake-affected districts that are at a high risk of landslides. This is a positive step. Numerous households in the affected areas have been rendered uninhabitable by the earthquake. They have been living on dangerous land, fearing for their lives. The monsoon has the capacity to sweep away many villages where the land has become fragile since the earthquake. Now that the government has endorsed the proposal for resettlement, district authorities should work on a war footing towards moving households at threat to safer areas. The monsoon has arrived and it is essential that this work be completed within a very short period of time.
However, there are a number of precautions that the government needs to take during resettlement. It is not sufficient to simply move people to places that are safe. The local governments need to ensure that the basic needs of the people for shelter and food are met. They also have to take steps to ensure that the displaced people living in camps do not come into conflict with members of the host community. Furthermore, the long-term needs of displaced people need to be taken into account. Displaced people living in camps often feel uprooted. They find it difficult to restart their lives. Often, they find it difficult to find jobs through which they can make a living. Displaced people living in camps, therefore, need the support of the government and NGOs in finding ways to make ends meet. There can be cash-for-work programmes, for example. Skills training can also be offered as a way of helping the displaced to integrate into their host communities. Granted, it might take some time to develop such programmes. What is essential for now is for local government officials to be continuously engaged with the displaced and remain updated on their needs and requirements.
It is also essential to have policies in place to ensure that the camps of the displaced do not become permanent. The number and size of camps should be kept to a minimum. Only those who cannot live in their villages at all should be moved to a new place, and even then their consent must be gained before they are sent to a camp. After they are moved, efforts should be made to restore their original villages, where they can return sometime in the near future. There might be villages that have suffered so much damage that they cannot be restored. In this case, another settlement, preferably close to the village, will have to be found. It is clear that the lives of thousands of Nepali citizens have changed irremediably. The task now is to do the utmost to restore the highest degree of normality possible.
Published: 02-07-2015 07:56