EDITORIAL: Poor show

With more than 50pc of the quake-affected households yet to receive grant, the NRA has failed to live up to expectations

Five CEOs at the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and five governments in the last three years! It sums up what has gone wrong in Nepal’s post-earthquake reconstruction. The NRA’s performance has been extremely poor. It has so far spent Rs 185 billion in reconstruction works since the devastating earthquake, but less than half of the quake beneficiaries have rebuilt their houses under the government grant. The government has also allocated Rs 151.08 billion for the NRA for this fiscal for reconstruction works. Thus the NRA altogether will have spent Rs 336 billion when this fiscal year ends. Going by the current pace of work, it looks like the NRA will take ages to complete the reconstruction works. There is no clear sign the NRA will be able to complete the remaining tasks within 2020, the deadline set by a law governing the authority. Now, NRA CEO Sushil Gyawali has revised the cost estimates and put it at around Rs 600 billion to finish the remaining tasks of reconstruction. The NRA is set to finalise the cost estimates by the end of this fiscal. The government has now aligned some works—drinking water, sanitation and livelihood support—with regular programmes of the concerned ministries after the NRA failed to accomplish the tasks. The NRA was formed under a law to “build back better” after the 2015 earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and rendered more than 810,000 families homeless in the central hilly districts and in the Kathmandu Valley.

The NRA, whose relevance is under the scanner, is preparing to hold yet another donors’ conference to seek support from development partners to complete the remaining tasks of reconstruction. Gyawali says the NRA would not be able to complete the reconstruction works on its own if they do not get more support from the donors. Some countries have assured that they would provide further assistance to push the reconstruction drive. Earlier, development partners had pledged financial support of $4.1 billion during the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction in 2015. The NRA has so far mobilised only $1.5 billion through foreign assistance.

The huge gap between the international pledge and its net assistance NRA has so far received is a clear indication of the NRA’s inability to realise the donors’ pledge into reality. The frequent changes in the NRA leadership, delay in enacting the law to govern the authority, lack of clear vision and plans, bureaucratic hassles and absence of local bodies since the quake can be attributed to NRA’s dismal performance in expediting the reconstruction works. The entire reconstruction work, which should have been solely a humanitarian effort, has been mired in politics. Had the NRA been effective in its mission, international support for reconstruction would not have been a problem. Going by the NRA’s records, out of the total 810,690 beneficiaries entitled for the NRA grant, only 307,104—less than 50 per cent of the total beneficiaries—have so far rebuilt their houses in three years. Its reconstruction work in the public sector has been even worse. Given its poor report card, there is no guarantee that the second donors’ conference will be able to give the required impetus to reconstruction efforts. The NRA must mend its ways.

Pain in joints

Today’s population is experiencing more joint pain. According to experts, around one million Nepalis are suffering from Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs). Changing lifestyles, smoking habits, obesity, genetic conditions, some occupational hazards as well as ageing increase the risk of arthritis, say experts. RMDs severely impact quality of life and if left untreated, rheumatic diseases can even reduce life expectancy. But there seems to be little awareness about arthritis in Nepal, and in general it is believed to be a condition associated with ageing, which cannot be avoided.

According to the World Health Organisation, musculoskeletal conditions are leading causes of morbidity and disability and give rise to enormous healthcare expenditures and loss of work. It is imperative that the policymakers understand the burden of RMDs. There is often delayed or no diagnosis of RMDs due to lack of awareness. This not only impacts people’s quality of life but also affects physical abilities. Awareness hence is the key. Patients also must be encouraged to seek treatment.