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September 20, 2017

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Two years on from devastating earthquake, Nepal continues to rebuild

Nepal -- April 2017 marks the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Nepal, which took almost 8,860 lives, injured 22,000, damaged 602,257 houses, and rendered thousands of people homeless. In the two years since, the reconstruction process has begun to finally gather steam, but before the second anniversary, we must reflect on the progress made in addressing the grievances of earthquake-affected communities and whether accountability has been realized.

The earthquake caused far-reaching damage, going beyond the destruction of houses, buildings, and infrastructure. Those who were hit the hardest were marginalized and vulnerable groups, including those living in poverty, people with disabilities, women, Dalits, children, and the landless.

Despite the tragic circumstance, the earthquake has created an opportunity for all of us — the government, donors and communities themselves — to begin to collectively rebuild, not only by reconstructing houses and buildings, but also by addressing affected communities' varying grievances and needs. The government is ultimately accountable, and following a Post-Earthquake Needs Assessment (PDNA), it created the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) to begin the reconstruction process.

Budget Not the Only Indicator Of Success

A visit in early January 2017 to earthquake affected areas, Salyantar Village Development Committee (VDC) in Dhading district and Mashel VDC in Gorkha district, however, has given us pointers to reflect on the progress, which can be deceptive at first sight. The government, through the NRA, has begun to make serious efforts to respond to the needs in earthquake affected areas. Yet, the percentage of the budget spent on disaster response is not the only indicator of success.

We must take a critical eye to the recovery process, particularly with respect to whether the government's approach is integrated and coordinated; whether the government has a long-term vision in place; and whether policies and commitments on paper have been translated into reality. Are the disaster response policies delivering justice to affected people, particularly marginalized and vulnerable communities, in practice? While reconstruction needs to be a key priority for the government, it must not overshadow other crucial needs of the affected people.

Despite the damage, the earthquake has created an opportunity to reconstruct private homes, but also public infrastructure that is inclusive. For instance, the quakes became an opportunity to make public infrastructure accessible for people with disabilities (PWDs) — the PDNA and post-disaster guidelines explicitly require the government to rebuild infrastructure considering the needs of PWDs.

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