KATHMANDU, Aug 14: The government has been sitting on billions of rupees in relief funds for the victims of natural disasters even as thousands of people suffer cold and hunger in the districts affected by flooding and landslides.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund has around Rs 2.12 billion in a fund set up with donations from ordinary citizens and various groups inside and outside Nepal.
Similarly, millions of rupees remain unused with the Central Disaster Rescue and Relief Committee, which has chapters in all 75 districts.
Though there is no dearth of funds, the government’s inaction and lack of emergency plans have caused delay in distribution of relief materials to families affected by the monsoon-induced floods and landslides. The delay has forced civil society, the business community, non-governmental agencies and volunteer groups to fundraise in support of those affected.
Floods and landslides triggered by the incessant monsoon rains have claimed 80 lives so far and affected around six million people in 26 districts, according to the Home Ministry..
Republica reporters on the ground said that people in many villages, especially those cut off from transportation and communication links, have been forced to wait for rescue and relief without food and water. In many inundated villages, survivors have been forced to consume dirty water and unhygienic foods.
Human rights watchdogs including the National Human Rights Commission have warned of epidemics if the affected families including children are not provided clean food and water.
Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, said the surplus money in the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund can be used any time.
“We have plenty of money in the relief funds. We are ready to release the required money if the Home Ministry comes up with a concrete proposal,” said Adhikari.
Ram Krishna Subedi, spokesperson of the Ministry of Home Affairs, said that the ministry also has enough funds to be used for relief and rehabilitation.
“There is a minimum of Rs 500,000 in every district administration that can be used during natural disasters. Moreover, we have plenty of budgets in the ministry that can also be used,” said Subedi.