Of Rice and Tarps
6 May 2015
NOTES FROM THE FIELD: The complex process of coordinated aid distribution in earthquake hit Nepal.
About 30 kilometres from the capital city of Kathmandu, Falame in Ryale Village Development Committee (VDC), Kavre, is a small village of about 90 houses. Located on a high hill, the community there has lost most of the houses, but there have been no injuries, and aid (mostly in the form of food supplies) has been coming in since the third day after the earthquake. All the aid in this Tamang village so far has been from private or non-governmental sources but routed through the local government office, and the frustration this has created in Falame demonstrates some of the complexities of aid delivery and coordination.
Faudi Tamang of Falame works at an LP-gas distribution centre in Kathmandu. On hearing about the devastation in the village, his employer offered to get in touch with Indreni Samaj, an NGO he was involved with, and send relief through the organisation. The village did receive sacks of rice and dal, and some tarps. But the aid package was smaller than what Faudi was promised, and the quantities, especially the five tarps they received, were wholly inadequate for the village which has lost most of its 90 houses.
“I heard we were sent 90 sacks of rice but Sambhu Adhikari [VDC Secretary] sent it to his own village in Bhumedanda. It’s not even the same VDC,” Indra Bahadur Tamang added with casual cynicism, “He is from Bhumedanda, you see.” His uncle Aaite Tamang joined us. “A delegation of about 50 people went to the VDC office,” he told me. “But the secretary is never clear. Sometimes he tells he sent the aid to us, sometimes to the others. We will be sending a letter to the VDC, asking for more relief.”
The disappointment of the villagers and the potential for cynicism is an understandable result of the complex process of aid distribution. The government has asked that relief be routed in coordination with local government houses, so that it can reach the neediest, and in the case of Falame the VDC felt there were others who had an equal, if not more urgent claim on the resources.
“It’s not that we haven’t received the ration; we have,” Faudi clarified. His employer had decided to route the relief through the VDC office, but the VDC Secretary Shambhu Adhikari said he couldn’t channel it to one village alone, Faudi told me. “But when you distribute 50 tarps among nine villages [in a VDC], what are you left with? Five or six per village?”
On further communication, the village received another round of aid from the same donors, this time including cooking oil. At the insistence of the NGO supplying the goods the village was able to get the entire relief for itself this time.
The VDC Secretary Shambhu Adhikari was surprised that this had become an issue. According to him, the VDC had received 40 sacks of rice so far. But when asked about the aid coming in from non-government sources, he refused to acknowledge if any had come. “We keep a record of all things that have come. And there are no private aid in the record so far,” Adhikari said. When told about the situation in Falame, he added, “I am not going to sit here and give equal portions of aid to every village. Some village need more aid than the others.” Ward number 2 village in Falame, for instance, he said, needed more food relief as there were some pregnant women there. “And frankly, there is plenty of food in Falame. It is a Tamang village and all they will do with excess rice is make alcohol with it. I don’t think that will do any good there.”
Back in Falame, Faudi was willing to be more open-minded about all this. “We are not angry that someone else received aid that had come in our name,” he said. “They are victims like us too. We just hope that the relief doesn’t disappear in the process. That it reaches where needed.”
~ Shubhanga Pandey is an Assistant Editor with Himal Southasian.
~‘Notes from the field’ is a reporting initiative, where we bring stories of the people and places that have been affected by the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal.