Nepal earthquake 6 months on: delays in policy and fuel crisis hamper recovery efforts

Emergencies, General, Media Releases, News article written on the 25 Oct 2015

Relief for the 8 million people affected by the devastating Nepal earthquake six months ago is being disrupted by delays in reinstating the Nepal Government’s National Reconstruction Agency, Oxfam said.

The NRA, set up to oversee the recovery and reconstruction planning processes, has remained in limbo after the government legislation that originally created it lapsed almost two months ago – a replacement bill to renew its legal mandate has yet to be passed by Parliament.

An ongoing fuel crisis is adding to the problems, putting at risk the health and safety of thousands of people as winter approaches. More than 8,600 people were killed and half a million houses destroyed by the quake.

Protests at the border with India have held up fuel deliveries for more than a month, causing shortages that are preventing Oxfam and other aid agencies from reaching an estimated 81,000 families who need to secure durable shelter and relief items such as blankets before sub-zero temperatures set in.

Thanks to the generosity of publics around the world, including Australians, Oxfam mounted a rapid response and after the earthquake, and has so far reached more than 445,000 people in seven of the worst-hit districts. Despite the distribution challenges, Oxfam is providing blankets, mattresses, and warm clothing to help with the cold.

However Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke, said issues limiting distribution efforts needed to be urgently addressed.

“The Nepal government must put recovery efforts back on track by immediately passing the bill that will reinstate the NRA,” Dr Szoke said.

“It must also urgently resolve the ongoing fuel crisis before it is too late for us to deliver winter supplies to affected communities.”

An estimated 850,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged in the 7.6 magnitude earthquake six months ago and subsequent aftershocks. Tens of thousands of people are still living in basic shelters built from bamboo and corrugated metal, which are not fit for freezing winter conditions.

“The fuel crisis is narrowing the window we have to reach communities before the cold winter sets in. Temperatures frequently drop below zero in mountainous Nepal and this is going to take its toll on earthquake survivors – particularly the elderly, pregnant women and children.

“Oxfam is calling on the Government of Nepal and all parties involved to immediately resolve the fuel crisis, to ensure that essential supplies start flowing again.”

Oxfam is working in seven of the worst-affected districts: Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Sindhupalchok, Dhading, Gorkha and Nuwakot, and has distributed 55,000 shelter kits, 50,000 hygiene kits and installed almost 8,000 toilets. The international agency have also assisted almost 10,000 households with food and 30,000 farmers with rice seeds to ensure they did not miss the planting season.

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