It’s Nepal after all: NGO & INGO staffs enjoy helicopter rides with dollars meant for earthquake victims

A completely destroyed Kerauja Village.

A Kathmandu-based vernacular media has exposed the blatant misuse of earthquake funds by humanitarian organisations working in the hardest-hit Gorkha district. The report claims helicopter services costing up to Rs 150,000 per shuttle are being used for jobs that could be done for as little as Rs 1,000 by local porters. That is not all, some employees are apparently using heli-rides to hop from village to village while rest of Nepal reels under acute fuel crisis and earthquake victims languish without the bare minimum necessities of life.

When the April 25 mega earthquake laid Nepal to waste, millions of compassionate souls from across the world reached into their pockets and gave whatever they could. Ever since, millions of dollars have been pouring into the country much of which still lies a wasteland.

If provided directly without the middle men and women, the funds would probably be enough to provide material assistance to all the critically needy victims who continue to languish in cold weather –  without proper clothes, nutrition and roof. However, scores of media reports make it glaringly clear that the ‘relief’ earthquake victims expected is as distant as the ‘Singapore dream’ their leaders gave them following the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1990.

According to Annapurna Post, some of the non-government organisations currently working in Gorkha district are so callously insensitive that instead of spending the relief funds on the actual victims they are using it to enjoy helicopter rides from village to village.

Nepal earthquake
In this May 2015 photo from SAATHI’s Facebook page, earthquake victims in Kerauja sleep next to their flattened homes.

Even then, it would be understandable if the staffs of some 45 odd NGOs and INGOs currently working in the hardest-hit district hitched rides when the helicopters were transporting goods – that would have been a mere optimisation of resources. But the Post report published today confirms that staffs of the ‘humanitarian’ organisations are using helicopters to hop from village to village.

“Such is the misuse of helicopter service that some low-level employees of the organisations use it to go from one village to another. Sometimes there would be no relief materials in it. The helicopter arrives with only some people on board,” Sobhan Gurung of Kerauja Village Development Committee (VDC) told the media. He said the money illicitly spent on the helicopter rides would have been far better-spent on assisting those who lost literally everything to the disaster and now have absolutely nothing left in life.

Local residents of Gorkha district, the eye of the 7.8 magnitude temblor, say the money relief organisations are spending on helicopters is entirely unnecessary because all target (earthquake-affected) villages can now be accessed through the time-tested modes of transport in Nepal – porters and donkeys. Had they used these traditional means of transport, they would have not only saved the humanitarian funds the country so badly needs but would have also provided employment to local porters who are currently out of employment, thanks to the April disaster. Tourism, the backbone of the local economy, has been badly affected in the wake of the destruction left by the earthquake.

According to another local resident of Kerauja VDC, it would be far less expensive to freight goods to the earthquake victims than charter helicopters. Suk Bahadur Gurung said that most men in Kerauja traditionally rely on tourism for their employment as porters. “Helicopter charges Rs 150,000 per ride but porters would have charged only Rs 1000,” Mr Gurung was quoted in the report.  He further added that the porters would have been so happy and grateful to be employed for transporting the relief materials to various VDCs which in turn would have provided with with a means to support their families.

A local teacher, on the other hand, failed to understand why the humanitarian organisations would waste Rs 100,000 to carry goods worth Rs 20,000. “We asked them as to why they are spending one lakh (one hundred thousand rupees) to freight materials worth Rs 20,000. They covered it up saying they were doing it for a speedy service,” teacher Arjun Shrestha said.

It is understood at least 10 VDCs are currently being accessed through helicopters.

According to Chief District Officer of Gorkha, Uddhav Timalsina, ‘instructions’ have been circulated to the relief organisations to use alternative means of transport such as porters and donkeys where possible instead of using helicopters.

One thought on “It’s Nepal after all: NGO & INGO staffs enjoy helicopter rides with dollars meant for earthquake victims

  1. The story on helihopping INGO ‘dollar farmers’ should’ve been written some 25 years. It’s a discovery made much, much, much TOO LATE!!

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