8 May 2015 4:52 PM AEST: Would a group of earthquake victims try to harm volunteers who arrive in their village to deliver what they need the most, that is, food? The answer should be a ‘no’ but that is exactly what nearly happened in Nepal’s earthquake-ravaged Sindhupalchowk District on May 6.
Yam Karki, a Clean Up Nepal volunteer who coordinates relief operations across some of the worst-affected districts, told southasia.com.au that a group of well-meaning Indians with a truckload of humanitarian assistance had a narrow escape from a very angry mob of Nepal earthquake survivors.
When the volunteers from New Delhi arrived at Sano Sirubari Village on Wednesday, out of goodwill they started to distribute the goods to whoever came first. As the items were distributed in an unplanned fashion, they soon ran out of stock and it was then that the victims who did not have anything to eat arrived.
“The earthquake victims were told there was nothing left for them. My colleagues told me the mob went out of control with anger and frustration,” he said during a telephone conversation today. The situation could have gotten very ugly but somehow was diffused, he added.
A video obtained by southasia.com.au does appear to show an irate mob.
Why would they try to attack the very people who came to help? Mr Karki says there are lessons to be learnt out of the video. If not, dangers lie ahead for volunteers.
According to the coordinator, the incident took place because everyone has become a relief specialist, “It has become a fashion now to load your car and go find a place to distribute.”
“People do not carry out any assessment before they go to the affected areas. So, they have no idea where they are going, how many people they would be serving or how much stock they require,” he lamented.
The unplanned and uncontrolled delivery of relief materials is slowly giving rise to a new kind of corruption. People are hoarding the much-needed relief materials including food and medicines while some other are running business out of it.
The Clean Up Nepal coordinator said there are some places where they have amassed food for an entire year. There are even villages where you can see the donated goods being sold at shops. When asked how one could tell the donated goods from those sourced from the regular business suppliers, he said, “All donated goods look similar because they mostly come from the same set of suppliers and also, by now we can easily indentify the humanitarian relief materials by their looks,” he assured.
“It is very important to carry out a pre-assessment of the target recipients. That’s the first thing we do before we actually go and deliver the aid. Clean Up Nepal never goes blindly,” Mr Karki said. The organisation was the first in Nepal to organise a nationwide clean-up campaign in conjunction with the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu.
They send two volunteers well in advance to assess the situation, who establish a reliable local contact and communicate with the villagers. Once the volunteers are convinced that a particular village stands in need of immediate assistance and establish the needs, they report back to their headquarters in Kathmandu and then only the relief materials move.
The focus is to go to places where others have not.
As an example, he told me of a village he was preparing to send relief to, Thaangpaal Dhaap in Sindhupalchowk District where 135 people died. Approximately 700 families in that village have not received much except some drops by a helicopter. ‘We are planning to go there tomorrow. Our colleagues will be walking for hours to reach the place as there is no road at the moment,” he said.
When asked how he himself was doing in the aftermath of the earthquake, Mr Karki said, “I myself need relief but what can I do? There are other people in the country who have lost more than I have!”