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Editorial: Rush relief to survivors

Editorial: Rush relief to survivors

The 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck Jajarkot and Rukum West last Friday has left behind a trail of death and devastation. Around 160 people have died (more than half of the dead are children), hundreds have suffered injuries, lakhs have become shelterless and lost the means of livelihood. 

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the United Nations said in its report that around 1.3m people have been exposed to the quake, and about 0.25m may need humanitarian assistance within 72 hours of the disaster.  

After announcing the completion of search and rescue operations, the government is ‘focusing’ on the distribution of relief materials. 

But media reports from the ground are not that encouraging. This daily and a number of other media outlets have pointed out that the government has largely failed to provide for the needy in times of a crisis. 

With their possessions under the rubble, the survivors are in need of food, shelter, warm clothing and medicine. But even the tarps have become a luxury for most of the people, forcing them to live in the open without food and warm clothing in freezing temperatures. 

A report published in this daily, for example, quotes relevant officials as saying that one has to be a house-owner to get a tarp from the government. Another ApEx report states that the representatives of organizations involved in relief distribution are not bothering to visit the backwaters for relief distribution. 

What does it all mean? That the lives of those living on rent or on temporary shelters like sheds do not count? That the people hailing from remote corners are expendable? 

In the aftermath of the disaster, a series of chopper-borne high-profile visits to the affected areas have taken place like on previous such occasions, with promises of all possible help to the survivors. 

Promises aside, relief materials like food, drinking water, shelter and basic medicine are really hard to come by for most of the survivors, leave alone specialized care for the traumatized ones, including children. 

The quake and several jolts aside, the survivors have also been grappling with a cumbersome governance system that has largely failed to provide for the people in dire need. Leave alone the disasters from a distant past, government authorities do not seem to have learnt lessons even from the 2015 Gorkha earthquake that killed around 10000 people, rendered lakhs homeless and destroyed infrastructure worth billions of rupees even as a dilapidated Singhadurbar looked on. 

The government should get its acts together and rush relief to the needy, in close coordination with political parties across the aisle, defense-security agencies, donor agencies, civil society and the public to save lives.