"We Will Need International Support"

In nearlytwo weeks of the devastating earthquake, Prime Minister SUSHIL KOIRALA addressed the press at his residence. Excerpts of his address:

May 22, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -22 May 22- 2015 (Jestha 08, 2072)

What isthe government’s position on thesituation following the devastating earthquake of April 25 and a series of powerful aftershocks, including that of May 12?

Followingthe devastating earthquakes, with limited resources and preparedness, we have been able to manage things in the right way. We were able to perform the rescue and relief operations. The death toll is almost nine thousand now, the number of injured has gone over twenty thousand, completely destroyed houses over five hundred thousand and partially destroyed houses over three hundred thousand. Almost one thousand government buildings have been completely destroyed and over two thousand partially destroyed.

Many blame the government was unable to address the immediate needs of the people and even mishandled the foreign countries, which had shown their willingness to work? What do you say?

Within the limited resources, we handled everything well. As per the demand of the people, we sent relief materials and rescue teams.The government made an immediate response, and mobilized the Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, and civil employees, who demonstrated professional response under trying circumstances.Despite fragile and deficient infrastructure in place and limited helicopter resources available, rescue operations were quickly put in place and immediate relief measures provided on a war footing.

So far as handling the foreign countries is concerned, the government handled all the foreign rescue and relief teams from different countries very well. Nepal Army was given the role ofa coordinator.

What about the recent incident of Nepal rejecting UK’s helicopter service? It was reported that the government declined the offer of British government due to pressure of Nepal Army and Nepal’s two neighbors. What do you say?

It is wrong. The decision was taken by the government considering our limitation of handling many helicopters. Similarly, our airport is also unable to handle heavy aircraft since our only airport is over pressed. I conveyed this message to British Prime Minister David Cameroon on my telephone conversation.

Britain remains Nepal’s largest donor and Nepal and Britain are celebrating two hundred years of bilateral relations.

Don’t you think your government’s dealing with Britain will have longer implications to Nepal?

I have told you that there is no intention other than the technical reasons. We need the support from United Kingdom in reconstruction. Since the two countries have two centuries old good relations, this incident will not make any difference.

How do you see the level of destruction?

Along with other physical destruction, monuments and sites of cultural and archeological importance, including those listed in the World Heritage Sites, have been destroyed.The government has declared 38 of the 75 districts as earthquake affected.The earthquake, worst in 82 years, has been so forceful at killing people and causing damage and destruction of property and infrastructure, this has inflicted a devastating blow to the nation. Thousands of precious lives have been lost, thousands of people injured and displaced. People have remained traumatized following the earthquake and recurring aftershocks.  

How do you see the casualties?

We express our deepest condolences on the loss of lives. I am deeply saddened to know that casualties also included 58 foreigners and 112 are reported missing. A US helicopter that was deployed for rescue and relief has crashed. All eight service men on board have been killed. Their services to the people of Nepal will be long remembered. I offer my deepest condolences to the bereaved families. 

What do you say about damage?

There has been enormous damage to economic and social infrastructure.  Assessment of the extent of the death, damage and destruction is being done. Government intends to complete Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) by mid-June. We need data of victims for organized distribution of relief materials and for long term planning.  It has been so difficult for us to come to terms with this scale of calamity, which we never thought.  Our loss has been grievous.

What financial package do you announce?

The government has decided to provide immediate financial support of Rs. 100,000 to each family of those killed in the earthquake and Rs. 40, 000 for funeral rites. The government will also provide Rs. 25,000 to families for repair of their damaged houses. The government has arranged free treatment of those injured by earthquake. The government will provide fifteen thousand as cash grant to each affected family for temporary shelter.

What are the challenges of the government?

Relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction remain our challenges.  At this time, our urgent needs include shelter materials, including tarpaulins and tents, dry foods, medical supplies, including implants, and hygiene and sanitation and water purifier to provide relief to the people in short term. 

How do you see international response?

The government decided to seek humanitarian assistance from the international community, and appealed for supplies of tents, food, medicines, water, hygiene, and sanitation.Nepal is fortunate to have the widespread goodwill, encouraging response, and huge support from international community at this time of national crisis.

What about the concern of the global leaders?

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was the first to call and offer all kinds of assistance.  President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China offered all necessary disaster assistance.  Heads of State/Government of the fellow SAARC Member Countries have called to express support and solidarity and offered their help.Likewise, President Barak Obama of the United States, UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon and other heads of government and state have called me to assure support of all kinds. British Prime Minister David Cameron told me over phone that they would provide all possible help.

We express our gratitude to our neighbours India and China, and fellow SAARC members. Likewise, we are grateful to our friends in the international community - the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, United Nations, European Union members, Republic of Korea, Canada, Malaysia, Turkey, Singapore and others. We consider the prompt and generous response to our appeal as an expression of our deep friendship.

What is the state of National Reconstruction Fund?

The Government has set up a National Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund. Our target is to raise Rs.200 billion. Government has earmarked Rs. 20 billion as seed money for the Fund, with a request to donor communities as well as private sectors to make necessary contributions.

How do you see its implications?

The earthquake struck at a time when there was near finalization of constitution writing process through the Constituent Assembly. Economic activities were coming back to life, taking place after decades of conflict and political instability. Power Trade Agreement was signed with India opening up market possibilities for surplus energy. Indian investors signed two Power Development Agreements (PDA) with Investment Board of Nepal. Hopeful sings in national life were emerging.

Do you think Nepal will come back?

In a spirit of solidarity and national unity, Parliament has adopted unanimously a resolution, directing the Government to undertake a serious of measure for rescue, relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation.In this hour of Nepal’s national calamity, we must come together. Nepali society has demonstrated a great resilience and courage.  I am inspired by the national unity, courage and fortitude displayed to forbear the pain. I am so very inspired by the response from top leaders of all political parties at this time of national crisis in addressing the challenges.

What else do you want to say?

At this difficult hour, we are very much encouraged by gestures of goodwill and support from our neighbours, development partners, friends and well-wishers in the international community. We are confident of receiving support at an enhanced level from the international community as we begin the phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction.

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