Quake victims yet to benefit from international aid: HRW

Political leadership left citizens without critical assistance and fought over petty politics

Kathmandu, January 27

Rescue and relief efforts following devastating earthquakes in April and May were slow to get off the ground, and the blockade on supplies led to a further crisis in the delivery of aid to earthquake victims, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2016.

In the 659-page report, its 26th edition, the New York-based HRW has reviewed human rights practices in more than 90 countries. Months of protests over the new constitution in the Tarai region caused more than 50 deaths and halted the flow of essential goods and medicines into the country, it stated.

According to the report, two back-to-back earthquakes killed or injured tens of thousands and left millions displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance. Vulnerable communities, including people with disabilities, women, and children, remained at particular risk. In spite of many promises, the government remained unable to establish a reconstruction authority to disburse funds and rehabilitation supplies.

“The government received more than US$4 billion for earthquake assistance, but the victims have yet to benefit from a single one of those dollars,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at the HRW. “It is unacceptable that the political leadership has left citizens without critical assistance and instead squabbled over petty politics.”

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, the political parties managed to agree on a long-stalled constitution. While the constitution has some important equal protection and affirmative action clauses and recognises the right to third gender identity, many ethnic groups, particularly along Nepal’s southern and far-western belts, said they felt excluded.

The ongoing protests led to an effective blockade of trade and transit from India, leading to shortages of goods including fuel and medicines. Instead of negotiating with the protesters, the Nepali government accused the Indian government of imposing an economic sanction on Nepal, which India denied, read the report.

HRW noted that the new constitution does not fully address the statelessness problem faced by over four million people in the country and instead creates further burdens for children born to a Nepali mother and foreign father.

“Nepal has had years to discuss and prepare a constitution which would address the expectations of all its communities, including its sizeable stateless population,” said Adams. “Instead, the main political parties simply used the distraction of the humanitarian crisis to pass a constitution which has ended up deeply hurting many of its citizens and deepened the humanitarian crisis.” It also said the country has yet to take steps towards accountability for crimes committed by all sides during the10-year civil war.