Inequity and Monsoons in Nepal

Monsoon in Nepal is a season of hope. It is a season of new beginnings. It is a season when farmers, after having freshly planted their seeds, await and dream of a bountiful harvest. This year, that dream might not come true. In about six weeks, Nepalis will be braving the intense monsoon rains. Many even before the quakes faced the danger of landslides and floods during this season every year. This year, almost 3 million of us might face the heavy rains without a roof over their head, without food, clean water or medical attention. This year, many farmers in the affected districts might miss the planting season, which will give rise to longer-term food security issues.

The shelter cluster, responsible for providing roof over the heads of the affected Nepalis needs $ 77 million. Only 21% of this total need has been met by the international community. The displaced populations also need coordinated camps. The camp coordination and camp management cluster needs $ 10 million, of which ZERO PERCENT has been met.

Source: UN OCHA

I worry that the government and the UN, despite their best efforts have not been able to prioritize the worst-off among us. 100% of the people in Dolakha’s houses have been destroyed, 96% of those in Sindhupalchok and 98% of those in Nuwakot.

Source: UN OSOCC

Why are these the worst off amongst us? This figure explains. Kathmandu’s human development index is 0.632. As a comparison, Sindhupalchok’s HDI is 0.455, Ramechhap’s is 0.468, Dolakha is at 0.459.

Source: National Planning Commission, Government of Nepal and United Nations Development Programme. “Nepal Human Development Report 2014. Beyond Geography, Unlocking Human Potential” Kathmandu, Nepal (2014).

Even within those already severely affected districts, not all VDCs have received equal attention. This figure shows the number and the VDC level location of rapid assessments that were completed or ongoing as of May 15 2015. The assessment teams have not reached many of the VDCs in Sindhupalchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap or Gorkha.

Source: UN OSOCC

Why? You might ask. This figure might shine some light into the issue. This figure shows accessibility of different areas. As you can see, large areas of Sindhupalchok, Rasuwa, Gorkha and Dolakha to the north are deemed inaccessible by road post the two major quakes. Accessibility data, as of 12 May 2015 was not available for Lamjung or Solu.

Sorry about the tiny fonts. Please go to the source to see a more high-def map. The slanted stripes refer to areas that are inaccessible by roads. The criss-cross bars refer to areas for which data was not available by May 12 2015.

Source: MapAction

So how has distribution fared?
The red bars in the graph below demonstrate an (under)estimate of absolute need in terms of shelter, that is, the number of households totally destroyed (not partially damaged). The blue bars represent needs supplies delivered (as prepared by the shelter cluster). Even if we assume a 1:1 distribution of tents/tarps per household as needed, which clearly has not been the case, less than half of the households in Sindhupalchok with desperate need for tarps and tents would have received tents/ tarps. 16% of the households with completely destroyed houses in Kabhre would have received any form of shelter, 18% in Nuwakot, and 23% in Lamjung.

Lack of Coordinated Camps in Districts outside of Kathmandu Valley:

The “needs-met” numbers for Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur are quite low, but Kathmandu valley has organized camps where the displaced populations can seek shelter. There are 50+ coordinated sites with dynamic updating of needs within the valley. As of the situation report dated May 17, a total of 216 displacement sites have been identified in 11 districts, but I was not able to find reports of any coordinated camp sites outside of the Kathmandu valley. The summary of open spaces allocation report from Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) cluster (summary here) only has listings of Kathmandu valley locations.

Source: Modified from UN Shelter Cluster Report.

I highlight this because societies are judged by how they treat the most vulnerable amongst them. Nepal is a resource-strained country and most of us grew up in this resource-constrained environment. However, the worst-off among us have suffered a lot more because of the quakes.

What can you do?
Review this graph. Logistics cluster, which coordinates transport (including helicopters and porters to areas inaccessible by roads) needs $ 33 million and has received only A QUARTER of the total funding it needs. Shelter cluster needs $ 61 million MORE than what it currently has. Coordination is key in these humanitarian crises situations. The coordination cluster wants $ 4 million to do its job and the world has only provided it with about a million.

The song “Asaar” by Bipul Chhetri is one of my favorite Nepali songs. It reminds me of monsoon, of the rolling hills, the curving rivers and the smell of the earth after the first drops of rain. Monsoon is the season for taato chiya (hot cup of tea). It is a season of hope for farmers who aspire to a bountiful harvest after having freshly planted saplings on the ground.

The rains in Boston do not compare — Nepali monsoon is one of the things I miss about Nepal. This year however, I dread the arrival of monsoon.

To rally around shelters, see this excellent post by Swarnim Wagle on government-recommended temporary shelter. Interested NGOs and individuals should chip in, but please notify the district administration to mitigate overlap.