#NepalEarthquake: Notes from the field: We shall rebuild

Dr Swarnim Waglé

Dr Swarnim WagleI was in Gorkha and Dhading this week, in a personal capacity, assessing the loss and distributing relief materials sponsored by the Help Nepal Network (400 sacks of rice), FNCCI (assortment of medicines, mats, rice) and Leapfrog (transport). With nine hours of sleep in three days, I visited or passed by 25 VDCs. Many of my priors were upended, and I came away more aware of what is happening on the ground. Some quick observations below:

The problem of the last mile

The unit of operation should be the wards, not VDCs. The more accessible VDCs have benefited much more than those farther away. Some have already stocked up for a few months. To ensure better targeting, a heroic effort combining local knowledge and organizational skills is needed. Most external groups do not have the fortitude or patience. With the credit secured for the easier leg, the problem of the last mile is often left for the local administration to solve, which is already stretched.

This ain’t a picnic

Food in central Nepal means rice. Then lentils and cooking oil. The northern villages also need salt. They do not really need fancy bottles of mineral water, snacks, bhujia, biscuits, noodles, brand new saris, or the Bible. Continue reading #NepalEarthquake: Notes from the field: We shall rebuild

Nepal Earthquake: How can private businesses provide help?

Ashutosh Tiwari

How can private businesses — which provide jobs and taxes, and goods and services that people need and pay for — provide help?

(Please use these points ONLY as broad suggestions. Obviously, each business has its own context, limited resources, and limited capabilities to do what it can for its employees, customers, investors and stakeholders.]

IMMEDIATE:
1. Check to see/confirm whether ALL the staff members, including factory workers, are accounted for and are indeed physically safe. [If not, ask about access to medical care and see if you can arrange it in some way.]
2. Check to see the extent of harm/damages, if any, to physical structures (office buildings, factory spaces, etc).
3. Visit staff members who have lost their loved ones and/or whose dwellings have been destroyed or demolished or have cracks on walls.
4. Offer the victims (i.e. your staff members) immediate relief in the form of cash and/or non-cash materials (i.e. tents, sleeping bags, water purification tablets, water, etc) to the extent you can. Remember, this is a major once-in-a-century type of an emergency that we are facing — so, think a bit creatively as to how you can allay people’s concerns. Check with the affected staff and their families daily or once every two days. Continue reading Nepal Earthquake: How can private businesses provide help?

Nepal Earthquake: Gentle note to the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph

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Dr Swarnim Wagle

Yesterday, it asserted in the first line of an article that one political party had announced all quake-related donations MUST go to ITS fund. Today, it has a different version online. After misleading thousands of readers with a lie for a whole day, I think the polite thing to do (and a good journalism practice) is to append a note of correction.

[The premise of this article in a British newspaper that “funds are being directed to a political party” is completely untrue. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/Nepal-aid-donors-may-halt-fund…]

Read related piece by Dr Swarnim Wagle: What is the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund and What it is Not?

(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Dr Swarnim Wagle. We have reproduced here with his permission.)

Nepal Earthquake: Important for NGOs and voluntary groups

Kanak Mani Dixit

The Social Welfare Council (SWC) and its parent ministry have taken a decision that for earthquake relief purposes NGOs do NOT need prior SWC approval as has been the rule for receiving foreign funds. I double-checked with the officials, that the procedure for now is this – for receiving funds for relief activities from outside the country formally notify in hard copy the District Disaster Relief Committee (headed by CDO) and also send a note to the SWC (the latter you can do by email, but you can also do it in hard copy).

(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Mr Kanak Mani Dixit. We have reproduced here with his permission.)

What is the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund and What it is Not?

Swarnim Wagle 

I have been swamped with queries on what the recent Central Bank directive on transfer of funds AFTER the April 25 earthquake means. **I share your concerns.** But it only affects bank accounts that were opened in the last 6 days under the direct subject of “quake relief.” People, agencies, NGOs, donors with established bank accounts before April 25 can continue to receive and mobilize funds just as they used to in the past. But I am verifying some more facts, and will post separately on this topic later.

In the mean time, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund. Let me clarify based on what I know:

1. The Prime Minister (or his party) have absolutely nothing to do with it. The PM cannot access this fund himself. It is coordinated by the Vice Chairperson of the NPC and 8 Secretaries through a unanimous decision.

2. It is purely a relief fund, channeled through the Chief District Officer in each disaster-hit district, and is meant to follow a “fast track” to cut through the usual procedural delays in a slow bureaucracy.

3. The fund cannot be used to provide donations or any other administrative or overhead costs including facilities and allowances to civil servants. (They get no helicopter rides or random “incentives.”)

4. This is *completely* different from the Prime Minister’s “Assistance Fund” which he can use with discretion.

5. Is there some leakage, abuse, waste? I bet there is, just like there is scope for foul play in any large fund run by multilaterals (WB/ADB), bilaterals (UK/US) or NGOs. But what are the safeguards against potential abuse? Unlike the PM’s “Assistance Fund” which is not legally required to be audited, the “Disaster Relief Fund” is audited regularly and annually by the Office of the Auditor General of Nepal. There is a clear “Karyabidhi” (Operation Regulations 2006). “Akhtiyaar” can also look into cases and folks can go to jail.

6. The Government will most likely also add an extra layer of third party, independent auditing to enhance credibility and transparency.

7. No political party or leader has any access to these funds at the Centre. My personal view is that to prevent misuse in the districts, vigilance and scrutiny is required by the media and civil society. Do ask tough questions and hold officials to account.

8. The website lists all contributions so far (file downloadable in Excel), including the US$1 million cash donation from Bhutan: http://pmrelief.opmcm.gov.np/contributors.aspx

9. In view of the above, the premise of this article in a British newspaper that “funds are being directed to a political party” is completely untrue.

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10. For further clarity, please contact the Coordinator of the Fund, Prof. Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel (NPC Vice Chair) on his mobile: 98511 00407 or the Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Mr. Narayan Gopal Malego on 98415 16505.

(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Dr Swarnim Wagle, member, National Planning Commission)