Nepal calls for end to aid discrimination for quake victims

Kathmandu, June 2 (IANS) The Nepali Congress — major partner in Nepal’s ruling coalition — and the London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday called upon the Nepal government to end discrimination in distribution of relief material in earthquake-affected areas of the Himalayan nation.

Distribution of relief materials is overseen by the home ministry which is headed by ruling coalition partner Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) — and Nepal’s largest party has smelt a rat in relief distribution that is mostly influenced by the CPN-UML leaders and cadres.

A delegation led by NC vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel, who is also heading a monitoring panel in the party, drew the attention of Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam and blamed the CPN-UML for influencing relief distribution and for misuse of relief materials in some places.

According to an NC statement, many survivors have not even received the Nepali Rs.15,000 (around $147) provided by the government to rebuild houses.

Distribution of relief aid announced by some CPN-UML leaders and cadres like Industry Minister Mahesh Basnyat has been politicised and the relief materials have also not been distributed in a transparent manner, the NC alleged.

The NC also sought to know what preparations the government has made for rehabilitation of quake victims ahead of the monsoon.

Similarly, Amnesty International, at a press briefing on Tuesdsay, also said that thousands of victims in need of aid risk being left to fend for themselves amidst worrying signs that gender, caste and ethnic discrimination were inhibiting the aid effort.

The organisation has urged authorities and the international community to put human rights at the core of the earthquake response.

“The devastating earthquake that hit Nepal has killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands in dire need of aid. Nepali and international actors — including civil society — have responded to this humanitarian crisis heroically, but there are some serious issues brewing that need to be addressed urgently,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director.

“A human rights-compliant approach to the disaster response will be critical to ensuring that the quest for equality, justice and accountability in Nepal does not lose ground as the country struggles to recover from the devastation.”

An AI delegation that visited Nepal in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake found that groups who are often the target of discriminatory treatment in Nepal, including women who head households, Dalits, indigenous peoples or people with disabilities, are also facing increased challenges when accessing urgently needed relief.

“Survivors report that in some communities the aid effort has been politically manipulated. Those with ‘muscle’ — political connections — end up claiming desperately needed supplies meant for everyone. All actors involved in the relief and reconstruction effort must ensure that human rights principles are fully respected,” said Bennett.

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