Terai Human Rights Defenders’ Alliance (THRD Alliance) has actively been monitoring human rights situation in the flood-hit Terai districts (see the background and government response below). In the aftermath of the floods, THRD Alliance, based on the monitoring, would like the government and concerned stakeholders to draw their attention towards the following human rights concerns.
- We found that lack of rescue operation in time has led to the loss of lives in Rautahat and other districts.
- THRDA monitoring found late and insufficient emergency response to the disaster situation in the affected areas. The local government mechanism – DDRC – remained inefficient and ineffective. Lack of resources was observed. The adoption of one-door policy made the emergency response worse since individual, non-government organizations and donors appeared to be reluctant to channel their resources through the government mechanism.
- Flood victims have not yet received NRs 70 as decided by the government for each flood survivor for meal a day. When asked with district authorities about the implementation status of the decision, they responded that the surveys for the beneficiaries are underway.
- In the aftermath of floods, the affected communities are deprived from basic services such as food, shelter, health, and drinking water. The government with support of different organizations has distributed relief materials in some of affected areas but not in all the affected areas. For example, victims in Pratappur in Nawalparasi informed us that they received beaten rice – 1 kilo, noodles-1, and biscuit – 1 packet. The quantity of relief materials provided by the government and other agencies have not been adequate.
- We found that the government officials have acted as per influence of political leaders or those in the government. This has led to unequal distribution and it has also deprived the marginalised communities, especially from Dalits and poor community from their right to flood, shelter, health, and drinking water.
- Women and children are most vulnerable in the aftermath of disaster. The government obliges to ensure their right to protection during emergency situation. However, a flood-affected woman from Babai rural municipality in Dang was allegedly raped.
- Local elections in province number 2, which is heavily affected by the recent floods, has been scheduled for September 18. Local political leaders have trying to make relief support to the flood-affected communities for electoral gains. This has made the post disaster management complicated in the region. We found the politicization over the relief works in the affected areas ahead of elections. Recommendation
We recommend that politics should be out of relief. In response to flood-hit crisis in Terai, the humanitarian assistance must be provided without discrimination and must not be diverted for electoral gains and political reasons. The government should expedite relief and rehabilitation to the affected community. The international community should also monitor the emergency response and assist with humanitarian support to the affected communities in Nepal.
The below is the situation update in details along with government response.
Nepal is most vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods, landslides, fire, drought and epidemics killing hundreds of people each year. Memories of tragedy brought by the deadly earthquake of 2015 were still fresh in the minds of Nepalis. The floods took place in the country, especially in Terai, southern parts bordering with India.
Continuous four-day heavy rains since August 10, 2017 triggered floods and landslides across the country. This is the first time the entire region of Terai has been affected by floods. Despite being the most predictable water-induced disaster, floods have claimed more than 150 lives, and damage to thousands of houses.
As per the data of Home Ministry, over 150 people have died, dozens are missing, thousands of houses are damaged and thousands more completely inundated.
The recent floods in Terai have caused damages worth NRs 37.294 billion to the country’s physical infrastructure and agricultural sector. This is the preliminary data of the concerned ministries. The actual and detailed data has not been collected by the government yet. With the statistics of actual loss, the data is likely to increase.
As per the report prepared by Office of the Resident Coordinator Nepal in collaboration with humanitarian on 21 August 2017, initial Rapid Assessments (IRA) has been completed in 24 districts. The IRA in 24 flood-affected districts showed that 1.7 million people have been affected by monsoon flooding. The worst affected districts – with the highest caseloads of impacted persons – are Saptari (6489,945 people), Rautahat (266,486 people), Mahottari (200,000 people), Bardiya (134,804 people) and Sunsari (75,207 people).
The IRA also found that almost 65,000 houses have been destroyed and 460,809 people displaced. Floodwaters have destroyed 80 schools and 10 health posts in 24 districts. More than 50 villages remain inaccessible by road. Emergency response in these villages have become difficult for the government and agencies to reach out the affected communities with relief materials.
In the aftermath of floods, the affected population is in dire need of basic services such as food, shelter, drinking water and sanitation, and health. There is also need of resuming emergency education in the affected areas. There is no access to drinking water. Due to the floods, water has been contaminated. There is a great possibility of breaking out water borne diseases. Similarly, rice and grains stored in the houses have been washed away. There is acute shortage of food.
On August 12, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba directed Chief District Officers to do every possible effort in rescue and relief. Without enough boats and helicopters, victims in the affected areas could not be promptly rescued, leading to loss of lives. Likewise, shortage of money made matters worse.
The government mechanism at district level – District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC) led by Chief District Officer (CDO) – is responsible for the management of disaster. Emergency response in the aftermath of floods in the district has remained slow. Their first meetings after the disaster made no substantial decisions on emergency response except demanding more resources from the center. The response by the government and concerned stakeholders were unprepared and didn’t have enough resources and contingency plans to take the flood-hit crisis in the district.
So far, an emergency cabinet meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Baluwatar on August 13, 2017, made the decision to provide Rs 200,000 each in compensation to the families of those killed in the floods.
On August 18, which a week after the floods, the government decided to provide Rs 70 per day per flood-affected person for a meal for a month. But, this will not be sufficient to help affected people.
On August 13, 2017, a meeting of Central Natural Disaster Rescue Committee headed by Minister for Home Affairs Janardan Sharma adopted one-door policy. As per the one-door policy, those willing to provide cash support required to deposit their donations at the Prime Minister’s Central Disaster Relief Fund and other goods (relief materials) to the godowns of Nepal Food Corporation or the Tribhuvan International Airport. At district level, the relief materials were stored than directly distributing the flood survivors.
The one-door policy barred individuals, charities, private organizations, NGOs and INGOs from raising funds and directly distributing them to affected people. They required to channel their relief activities through the government mechanism.
In fact, one-door policy ensures proper utilisation and mobilisation of the resources to the affected communities without duplication. But, the government mechanism at district level was inefficient to implement. The government agencies, including members of DDRC, were seen busy implementing the one-door policy, than reaching out to the affected community, coordinating with other agencies to reach out to the affected people for support and regulating the support hands to provide relief to the affected. This has led to the late response of the government.
Had the one-door policy not put into effect, immediate assistance by individuals, charities, private organizations, NGOs and INGOs could have filled the gap created by government’s late response. It was observed that the donors seemed reluctant to channel their resources through the government. The event for the government’s lethargic response was evident from the fact that the state failed to provide quake victims timely help even though it had raised billions for rehabilitation and reconstruction after the 2015 earthquakes.
Furthermore, the one-door policy had put administrative hurdles for emergency response in flood-affected areas, according to the charities and organizations, which rushed to the affected community for emergency response.
Supreme Court Intervention
The one-door policy adopted by the government not only deprived the affected communities from emergency response but also added frustration among civil society, human rights communities in wake of government’s slow and late response. Sunil Ranjan Singh, an advocate, filed a writ petition against the one-door policy in the Supreme Court of Nepal.
On August 18, 2017, a single bench of Justice Om Prakash Mishra issued an interim order directing the government not to implement its earlier decision to adopt one-door policy in relief distribution for flood victims.
Following the Supreme Court, individuals, charities, organizations and donors rushed to the affected areas with their relief materials. Unlike before while one-door policy was into effect, the emergency response to the disaster has expedited thereafter.
In the decision, the Supreme Court had also ordered the government to expedite emergency response to the disaster through immediate distribution of relief materials and treatment of flood survivors. As a result, the government decided to provide Rs 70 per day per flood-affected person for a meal for a month. But, this will not be sufficient to help affected people.
As per the Office of the Resident Coordinator Situation Report No. 4 (as of 21 August 2017), the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund on August 16, 2017 released US $10 million to the Central Disaster Relief Fund at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA). The total amount committed to the flood response is approximately US $11.3 million. The Government of India has pledged support in kind and cash amounting to approximately US $ 3.9 million and the People’s Republic of China has pledged US $ 1 million in support of the flood response.
Nepal’s new constitution, which entered into force on August 20, 2015, enshrines the fundamental rights of the people which government is obligated to ensure, fulfill, and protect, including the rights to health, shelter, food, and water.
The Constitution of Nepal 2015, in Article 51 (f.9) under Part -4: Directive Principles, Policies and Obligations of the State, stipulates “to make advance warning, preparedness, rescue, relief and rehabilitation in order to mitigate risks from natural disasters”.
However, the above mentioned situation update and response to emergency situation shows contradictory to legal standards and state’s obligation to fulfil the basic needs of the affected communities at the time of flood-hit crisis.