The government decision on August 14, 2017 to adopt one-door policy in relief distribution to flood victims came as a surprise. The government decision went to the extreme asking individuals and organizations to handover relief materials to District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC), barring them from distributing.
The government decision discouraged spontaneous relief works initiated by individuals, local clubs and organizations, and local businesses in the districts during the initial days. It created confusions and unnecessary delays. Later there was a course correction after five days with the Supreme Court interim order to the government to not implement one-door policy in relief distribution.
Not learning from the past mistakes during the earthquake response and exercising of too much power by central bureaucracy was another disaster. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the government had announced that the supporting agencies deposit relief materials at the international airport or DDRC, and the government would distribute them. That did not work. The government also announced that only the government would procure CGI sheets for temporary housing. That also did not work.
Floods in the southern districts have affected about 5 million people. While the government has a primary responsibility to save lives of the people with rescue and emergency relief, it is not possible for the government to act alone. The government has limitations, and it does not have adequate human and financial resources, and efficient outreach to immediately distribute relief materials and ensure treatment to the injured. The Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund is under-utilized.
We should not forget that we are dealing with disaster, and we need rapid response to save lives of the people with dignity. Humanitarian response must be effective and timely, and it must strengthen local capacities. The government has a larger responsibility to coordinate and facilitate supporting non-governmental organizations to fast-track humanitarian response. Nobody should be discouraged from responding to disaster.
On the other hand, non-governmental organizations have responsibility to coordinate with District Disaster Relief Committee and Local Government, avoid duplications, reach most needy people, ensure transparency in the source and use of funds, and provide timely report to Social Welfare Council.
We need to maximize scares resources to support the affected people. We have seen that the government has not able to spend even during the normal period. The government is risking goodwill of international donors for not being able to spend money on post-earthquake reconstruction. Why would then the government need non-governmental resources while it is not able to spend it’s own?
I would even suggest mobilizing NGOs under the government funding, where they have comparative advantage for example, WASH, community infrastructure, resilient livelihoods, psychosocial, and disaster risk reduction and preparedness. NGOs and the private sector work outside the government but they are inside the governance. We need more governance beyond government in humanitarian response and reconstruction.
Extreme version of one-door policy does not work. Learning from Nepal earthquake and other international experiences suggest that local level participation of individuals and organizations, local capacity strengthening and local level coordination are critical to the success in humanitarian response and reconstruction.
Let us work together! Let us continue learning and improving our work!!
Dr. Manandhar is an expert of international development. Currently, he is working as Country Director of The Lutheran World Federation. He is the Convener of ACT Alliance Nepal Forum. He is also a visiting faculty at the Kathmandu University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org