Nepal | May 23, 2019

Poorest, most vulnerable bore maximum brunt of tremors

Rupak D Sharma

KATHMANDU: The poorest and the most vulnerable people usually sustain the worst impact of disasters. This was proved during the devastating earthquake of April 25, as districts that were lagging behind in the Human Development Index suffered greater losses.

Recovery for women may take longer, states PDNA report prepared by NPC

HDI, as per the United Nation’s definition, is a measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having decent standard of living. In other words, the higher the HDI, the better the health, education level and living standard of people residing in an area.

Sindhupalchowk, one of the districts worst hit by the quake, for instance, has an HDI of 0.455, which is lower than the national average of 0.459 and second lowest among 14 districts that were most affected by the disaster.

Here, the average value of disaster effect on every person stood at Rs 233,370, says the Post Disaster

Needs Assessment Report prepared by the National Planning Commission. This means, every person residing in Sindhupalchowk lost physical assets and suffered other losses worth Rs 233,370 due to the April 25 quake and its aftershocks.

Dolakha is another district most affected by the disaster, where HDI stands at 0.459 — third lowest

among 14 most-affected districts. Here, the average value of disaster effect on a resident stood at a whopping Rs 255,860.

On the contrary, per person value of disaster effect hovered around Rs 49,495 in Kathmandu district, which boasts an HDI of 0.632.

Similarly, average value of disaster effect on a resident of Lalitpur district — with HDI of 0.601— stood at Rs 52,765.

“These facts, coupled with the distinction between the urban and rural economy of such districts, need to be taken into consideration in the formulation of the recovery and reconstruction strategy in view of the differential impact felt by the population of each district,” states the PDNA report, which has covered assessment of 31 districts affected by the quake.

Estimates show that the April 25 earthquake and its numerous aftershocks destroyed physical assets worth Rs 517 billion and inflicted other losses, including higher production cost of goods and services arising from the disaster — of Rs 189 billion.

With the exception of the Kathmandu Valley, the central and western regions that have been affected by the tremors are essentially rural, adds the report. “These districts also have generally higher per unit livestock than the national average, indicating that the widespread loss of livestock, which is another main source of income for rural households, will potentially cause a severe income shock in the short term.”

Another problem faced by districts worst affected by the disaster is high absentee population, with most of the males working in Gulf countries or Malaysia. This means women will have to take on a larger responsibility of rebuilding sectors like agriculture and livestock.

But ‘a narrow asset base, burden of domestic work, limited access to economic resources, combined with the lack of alternate livelihoods, mean that recovery for women may take longer’, states the report.

Also, destruction of water supply and sanitation facilities will have a direct negative impact on women and girls as they will now have to fetch water from greater distance.

“(Yet) women and marginalised groups have unique capacities … and women’s dominance in the agricultural and informal sector means they will play a critical role in the recovery and rebuilding of Nepal if supported appropriately,” states the report.

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