EDITORIAL: Grant for victims

Besides providing the grant assistance to the victims the NRA should alsoprovide tents and tarpaulins to the victims so that they protect themselves from the rains till they build their permanent shelters

Fourteen months after the devastating April 25 and May 12 earthquakes in 2015 which left around 9000 people dead and more than 23,000 people injured the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has signed a deal with banks and financial institutions (BFIs) for the distribution of grants to the quake victims.

The NRA on Monday signed the deal with 29 BFIs with a view to providing the grant assistance to the quake victims in 11 hill districts, excluding the Kathmandu Valley. The NRA has already signed a MoU with the umbrella organization of Class A, Class B and Class C banking institutions.

As per the NRA decision, the grant and loan assistance will be distributed to the quake victims only through banking channels to make every financial transaction transparent.

The District Development Committees of the 11 most affected districts have already published the list of beneficiaries, and the NRA has so far released Rs. 12.4 billion for the purpose of rebuilding individual houses damaged in the natural disasters.

The government has announced it would provide Rs. 200,000 to each of the families whose houses were destroyed in the quake in its policy and programme. It has also announced an additional amount of Rs. 100,000 to be released later.

Under the first installment, each of the quake victims will receive Rs. 50,000 and three other installments will be released only after the completion of the first phase of work.

An estimated 800,000 houses were damaged during the quake, mostly in the hilly districts and in the Valley. The NRA had to conduct a fresh survey of households damaged in the aftermath of the quake as the previous one conducted before the NRA was found to be inaccurate.

The NRA has a plan to distribute the first installment of the grant to all the quake victims so that they can at least construct their shelters before the onset of the monsoon that will become active from the second week of June.

However, it has already been delayed as the NRA has just completed the financial framework based on which the said amount of grant will reach the beneficiaries. A Bill to form the NRA was passed by the Legislature-Parliament on December 17, 2015 and its Chief Executive Officer was appointed on December 25.

It took several months to prepare legal and financial frameworks to set priorities, criteria and modality of distributing the grant to the victims who have already spent one monsoon and a chilling winter.

It is still not clear whether the quake victims will be able to build their homes before the onset of the monsoon as weathermen have forecast that the monsoon will be more active and arrive earlier this year compared to last year.

With the start of the monsoon it will be very difficult to ferry construction materials in the hilly areas.

Besides providing the grant assistance to the victims the NRA should also provide tents and tarpaulins to the victims so that they protect themselves from the rains till they build their permanent shelters.

Do more

Tobacco use has been a major killer in the world. In eleven countries of South-east Asia, including Nepal, the people dying of tobacco-related diseases every year number 1.3 million.

Despite WHO campaigns and governments’ measures, including increasing taxes on tobacco products and the requirement to print in big lettering with a big picture of the damage tobacco use causes on packs of cigarettes and other tobacco products, the number of tobacco users is alarmingly high.

WHO, in a statement issued on World No Tobacco Day, has admitted the inadequacy of the message ‘Tobacco Kills’.

Governments cannot ban tobacco use on the ground of freedom of choice and also because of the high revenue the tobacco industry generates.

The impact of widespread tobacco use goes beyond the health of individuals, unnecessarily burdening health budget, affected families’ growth prospects as well as that of the economy as a whole.

WHO has put forward the idea of disrupting the psychology of tobacco consumption through plain packaging.

In Nepal two people are reported to die every hour from tobacco use.

More innovative and effective ways, apart from the ones in practice, should be found to cut tobacco use significantly in Nepal as well as elsewhere in the world.