Nepal: Poor hit hardest amid disaster

May 15, 2015
At least 600,000 homes have been destroyed in Nepal by the two quakes.

Already struggling to cope with the devastation caused by the April 25 earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Moment Magnitude Scale, Nepal was hit on May 12 by a major aftershock with a magnitude of 7.3 MMS. By May 14, there had been 158 aftershocks.

The May 12 aftershock appears to have killed far fewer people than the initial quake, but the combined death toll is more than 9000 and rising. Most casualties have been in Nepal but there have also been deaths in India, Bangladesh and Tibet.

Manarishi Dhital, a journalist and socialist activist, spoke to Green Left Weekly on May 13 by phone from Kathmandu. “Nobody went home last night,” he said. “We felt more quakes all through the night. People are very scared.

“More than 70,000 houses are affected [by the second quake] in Kathmandu Valley. Life is very painful. The number of deaths is going up. There is no information from many villages because it is a mountainous country where housing is scattered.”

Dhital estimated that at least 600,000 homes were destroyed nationwide by the two quakes. He said emergency relief was struggling to reach rural communities in a mountainous country where communications are difficult at the best of times. “Roads have been damaged and helicopter flight is difficult.”

On May 12 a US helicopter carrying six US marines and two Nepali soldiers went missing.

Dhital said that while Nepal had issues with governmental corruption and inefficiency, the security forces, state agencies and the people were coordinating their efforts.

He said that while aid was coming from the international community, there was a lack of relief materials. Foreign governments and NGOs were working together with the Nepali people, he said, but while much of the international assistance was constructive, some foreign aid workers were doing little more than “disaster tourism”.

Foreign governments have been advertising their generosity, but the response in general has been woefully inadequate. “Of the US$415 million requested by the UN and its partners last week, just US$22.4 million has been provided,” TeleSUR English said on May 8. reported on May 5 that Venezuela had sent “a medical team, two forensic engineers, and three specialists who will conduct a 20 day evaluation concerning how the Venezuelan government may best meet Nepali needs”.

Cuba has sent a team of 49 health professionals, who arrived on May 12, just before the second quake struck. TeleSUR English said the next day, they “began setting up a field hospital in the National Ayurvedic Research and Training Centre in the Kirtipur municipality, just outside of the capital Kathmandu”.

“Bringing their own medical equipment with them, the Cuban medical team consists of … specialists including surgeons, anaesthesiologists and obstetricians, as well as 10 nurses and 8 general practitioners.”

Not all foreign governmental assistance has been so targeted. Israel, for instance, has sent 260 soldiers.

“Nepal needs doctors, psychologists, and construction experts who speak Nepalese, rather than soldiers,” Tamara Pearson wrote for TeleSUR on April 29.

Moreover, the Israeli effort has prioritised evacuating Israeli babies born to Nepali surrogate mothers. “The Israeli Boeing 747 left the mothers behind,” Pearson noted.

A May 13 Jewish Telegraphic Agency report confirmed this baby trafficking, but accused Latin American and Iranian media organisations of anti-Semitism for reporting it.

Dhital told GLW the recovery effort involved three phases. The first involved providing temporary shelter, food and medical assistance. The second phase was rebuilding housing and creating emergency income generating opportunities for survivors.

The third phase is long-term development plans.

It is particularly during this third phase that there is a danger of imperialist governments and international organisations using the tragedy to promote their own countries' commercial and strategic interests at the expense of the country afflicted by the disaster. This was the case after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake in 2010.

Pearson said: “Only 1 cent of every dollar spent by the United States on Haiti earthquake relief actually went to the Haitian government. Forty percent went to the US military, and 36 cents to USAID.

“According to a 2013 Guardian report, over 90 percent of all humanitarian funding for the Haiti earthquake relief went to donors' own civil and military institutions, the UN, international non-governmental organisations and private contractors.”

Nepal: How Australians can help

Bharat Nepal, president of Australia Nepal Public Link Inc, issued the following appeal for aid in the days after the April 25 earthquake: “As you all know a very devastating earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. More than 5000 people were killed and thousands more are still missing. Outside of Kathmandu is also badly affected, however due to remoteness damage has still not been fully appraised.

“There is great need for health care, food and water. I am coordinating to raise funds in Australia to address this crisis. If you can please support by donating to the following account, all money raised will be sent to National Disaster Relief Fund in Nepal. Thank you so much.”

Organisation name: Australia Nepal Public Link Inc.
National Australia Bank
BSB 082 342
A/c. no. 83 719 7693
Please state: “Earthquake support” as transaction ID

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