After an earthquake savaged over Nepal, hundreds of heart-wrenching scenes from Kathmandu showing homeless people in the middle of the rubble of ancient temples shocked the entire world.
We sometimes forget how destructive the power of nature is. Complicated bureaucracies and customs hindered gravely the spreading of relief materials, such as basic food supplies – so much that even three days after the quake, confusion and chaos still reigned. Some remote villages that were ravaged by the catastrophe are yet to receive anything more than noodles.
The problem is that a lot of the disasters that don’t happen in our immediate vicinity only capture our attention for as long as they remain in the news, while governmental officials from the United States to Asia and back again to Europe, fail to understand that deeper issues need attention.
Poor Nepal had no power against the wrath of the earthquake – bricks and dust is all that’s left of the ancient temples that once stood tall in the center of Kathmandu. Remote villages were annihilated and climbers on Everest were killed by sudden avalanches in the monumental Himalayas. The base camp was blocked with 188 people stranded in it.
Poor economy will make recovery almost impossible
When help reaches even the remotest areas, numbers are expected to reach 10,000 victims. If you think of this from the global catastrophe point of view, it’s not that big of a number – but for impoverished Nepal, the earthquake was devastating.
Reconstructing a country with the rate of unemployment at 40 percent and $1,000 is the income per capita, may rise to the cost of $10 billion. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, this means almost half Nepal’s gross domestic product would go in this direction.
Repairing the infrastructure and bringing economy back on its feet will take years. Around 10 percent of Nepal’s economy was sustained by tourism, which is now dead, buried under the magnificent temples.
It was refreshing to see so many international aid givers stepping up – Indian rescue teams were first on the spot, soon joined by China, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Japan, Israel, Britain, France, Norway, and many others. Tents, tarpaulins, food and medicine were air transported right after the news reached the world.
Basic supplies that are usually needed in such crisis situations were quickly flown to location: clothing, water, emergency generators, blankets, sniffer dogs and volunteers arrived in no time.
The international rescue and relief efforts were soon joined by Australia, Canada and U.S., Britain, and the European Union who all participated by pledging cash. Just two days after the chaos ensued, British citizens had already raised almost $30 million for Nepal.
The relief initiatives were so many that three days later, the Kathmandu airports had no more space for incoming relief aircraft. The question is if international aid will still be present and eager to assist when the damaged areas will start reconstruction.
Lacking political and economic support
Unlike other Asian countries, Nepal has missed the momentum of economic progress, mostly because of the unfortunate combination of ingrained poverty and toxic politics. Monarchy was abolished back in 2008, after a series of overthrown kings and political assassinations brought politics to its knees.
Ever since then, the country has been trying to implement a suitable form of democracy, but fractious politicians have yet to agree on a new constitution. The geographical location – squashed between India and China – has not been favorable for Nepal either. Instead of enabling the talents and the undoubted energy of its people, politicians made it a new opportunity for mischief.
It’s true, a better economic development could not have averted the earthquake devastation, but it would have given Nepal a leg to stand on and a fighting chance of recovering from the dust.
What will happen to Nepal when the media is tired of reporting earthquake news and after rescuers final go home? Will the country return to anonymity on the map, forgotten unless another tragedy brings it back to the world’s attention?
Instead, Nepal could use this devastation to become a model for cooperation between the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank – helping it get back on its feet. Unfortunately, such a scenario can only be played with great amounts of goodwill and imagination on all sides, which are currently lacking.
Hope for Nepal can only happen on the background of an active international communication – a context where our humanity can be powered together and fix common problems. It’s not just Nepal, in the end, it’s the 21,000 people who die from malnutrition each day and the world takes no notice.
Nepal, however, could be the stepping stone towards cooperating for a new world. It gives world powers a chance to help selflessly, as Nepal is not a great player in international affairs or ideological disputes.
Image Source: Channel NewsAsia
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