Earthquake-hit Nepal asks for twice as much aid to help it rebuild

Nepal needs almost twice as much money as has been pledged by international donors in order to fully rebuild the country following the devastating earthquakes that hit the country in April and May this year, its prime minister has said.

The country today hosted a meeting attended by some of the major donors including India and China, as well as the World Bank and the UN, as Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, appealed for billions of dollars more in aid. The country estimates that it needs $6.7bn (€5.9bn) in order to recover from the disaster, equivalent to almost a third of its annual output. Koirala is hoping to dispel doubts that aid may be misdirected due to corruption.

The two earthquakes caused widespread damage in April and May this year, leaving over 8,800 dead, more than 22,000 injured and millions more homeless. The first 7.8-magnitude quake hit the capital city of Kathmandu, destroying roads and causing extensive structural damage on 25 April. Its effect was also felt in the Himalayas, including on Mount Everest, where huge avalanches were triggered and Base Camp was practically destroyed. The second earthquake, a severe aftershock, followed on 12 May, causing further casualties and destruction.

So far India and China have been the biggest donors, pledging almost €1.3bn in total. India has offered €893m, with a quarter of this being given in grants, while the rest will be paid as loans. China has offered almost €446m, while the Asian Development Bank has promised €536m. The US will give €179m, while the EU pledged €100m and the World Bank €446m.

However, even with these sizeable donations, Nepal says they need billions more, but after the problems of distributing aid in the mountainous country immediately after the earthquakes, some have voiced concern about the government's abilities.

Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, the secretary general of the Nepal Red Cross Society, told Channel News Asia that following the disasters aid agencies encountered numerous problems. "There were bottlenecks at the airport, issues getting permissions to land, issues getting visas for relief workers, it was chaos," he said.

Dhakhwa also warned that a careful watch should be kept on those handling the funding. "People are using political influence to pressure officials and access funds meant for quake victims, by getting their names added to government-managed records," he said.

Today, the country's finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat was at pains to emphasise that the government aims to use the aid in the most effective way, saying that they are to set up an entirely new body which will handle all the funding. "We are trying to streamline our procedural requirements," he told AFP.

"There are so many parliamentary bodies looking at everything with a magnifying glass... nothing can be hidden. If there is misappropriation, irregularity or corruption, there are enough mechanisms to take care of that," he continued.

"Every donor will have to work with the government. If they have no faith in the government they have no business to come here," he added.