Red tape, as well as congested roads and airports holding up essential relief supplies
Caritas staff and volunteers move boxes of relief supplies in Kathmandu (Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj)
More than a week after a 7.8-magnitude quake struck Nepal, killing more than 7,200 people, relief remains slow moving with Church aid agency Caritas saying it is still facing shortages of supplies in spite of mass donations.
Fr Pius Perumana, director of Caritas Nepal, said that supplies from different agencies, including Caritas Germany, Caritas India and Catholic Relief services (CRS), have been stuck due to logistics problems at Dubai airport and at Birgunj on the India-Nepal border.
“Delivery of relief supply is taking a lot of time because of the only one small airport at Kathmandu. Also, our relief supply at Dubai airport is stuck there and 15 trucks of relief material from India are stuck at Birgunj,” he told ucanews.com on May 3.
The priest said that the provisions include shelter and food items purchased by Caritas Germany and Caritas India on behalf of Caritas Nepal and also some aid material from the CRS.
Birgunj in Nepal falls on the Indo-Nepal border and is the entry through road to the Himalayan country. For Indians, it is not necessary to have a passport or visa to enter into Nepal.
“Not only us, there are hundreds of relief trucks stuck at Birgunj. Because of the heavy congestion at Kathmandu airport, most of the people are procuring aid material from India and coming through road,” Fr Perumana said.
International planes loaded with relief supplies have poured into landlocked Nepal, but there have been numerous reports of many getting stuck at Kathmandu's small airport, and customs officials stopping trucks filled with aid from crossing into the country from neighboring India.
The United Nation's head of humanitarian affairs Valerie Amos said Saturday she was worried that tonnes of foreign aid was being held up by red tape.
"I was extremely concerned to hear reports that customs was taking such a long time," said Amos, adding that she had asked Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to speed up customs clearance for aid materials.
"He has undertaken to ensure that happens, so I hope that from now we will see an improvement in those administrative issues."
Fr Perumana said that the immediate need for the quake victims is shelter.
“Due to the erratic weather, sudden rains and a considerable fall in the night temperature in remote hilly areas, people need something over their head to spend their nights,” he said.
He said that the victims are somehow managing to take out food items from their damaged houses but it is getting difficult for them to spend the night without proper shelter in this weather. “They are using hay to put on the wet ground.”
“The immediate need is of 50,000 tarpaulin sheets. All we have is only 2,000-3,000 sheets which are being dispatched to quake victims in Nuwakot district,” he added.
Some 20,000 tarps are on its way from Caritas Germany, 10,000 from Caritas India and 10,000 from CRS but “we don’t know when it will reach. We cannot do anything but wait.”
Around 4,000 families have benefitted from the food and shelter items provided by Caritas Nepal to the quake victims in Kathmandu, the Nepal capital.
The agency has also started distributing aid material in remote districts of Nuwakot, Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, Dhading and Okhladunga.
“For the initial six months the immediate relief supply will be distributed and after that we would be working on the long-term rehabilitation plan for those who have lost their house. This also includes construction of houses for the victims,” Anjan Bag of Caritas India told ucanews.com.
The death toll from the April 25 earthquake has reached 7,200 and is expected to go up as more bodies are taken out from the debris. More than 14,000 have been injured and countless people have lost their homes.
Additional reporting by AFP
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