Humanitarian Transition Appeal for Nepal 2009
The past twelve months have brought landmark political transitions in Nepal, with former Maoist insurgents winning a decisive victory in the April 2008 elections. This paved the way for the declaration of a Federal Democratic Republic, the formation of a new government, and the beginning of a new mandate for peace and change. With the largely peaceful elections, conflict-induced humanitarian needs have clearly declined. At the same time, 2008 also brought reminders of the vulnerability of millions of food-insecure Nepalis, of Nepal’s high natural disaster risk profile, and of the relative fragility of the gains made in the peace process to date.
In the course of the past year, an unprecedented rise in food prices seriously affected the eight million Nepalese living below or at the poverty line, expanding the numbers requiring food assistance from 1.3 million at the beginning of the year to 2.7 million by the end. The shift in food prices poses both challenges and opportunities for the international community, which now recognises the importance of significantly increasing investment in agriculture alongside food assistance as a means of addressing serious concerns related to global food security and poverty.
In 2009, the humanitarian community will continue to provide food assistance to 2.5 million persons, including 100,000 Bhutanese refugees. Child malnutrition rates are among the worst in the world. As a result of the increased caseload as well as higher costs for food items and their transport, the proportion of the 2009 Appeal dedicated to food and nutrition has jumped from 38% in 2008 to 50% in 2009, precluding the possibility of an anticipated reduction in the overall Appeal amount.
In August 2008, Nepal was hit by consecutive flooding in the eastern and western regions, affecting more than 250,000 people. Flooding in the east was a result of the Koshi River, Asia’s largest river basin, breaking a retaining wall and washing away the villages in its course. Humanitarian needs remain in the affected districts as an estimated 50,000 people are still displaced in camps and camp-like conditions, and will require continued humanitarian support, especially shelter and livelihood, into 2009. Access to health, water, sanitation, hygiene, and education services has been considerably damaged in the disaster-hit areas. The effort to repair the embankment and redirect the Koshi to its original course is on-going. This joint undertaking by both India and Nepal must be completed before the next monsoon season to prevent additional flooding.
More broadly, Nepal is a high-risk country in terms of natural disasters. Located in a seismically active zone, it is highly prone to earthquakes and environmental hazards including annual floods causing displacement in the lowlands. The likelihood of a major earthquake in the Kathmandu valley also needs much greater attention as the loss of life anticipated under current conditions would be catastrophic.
The signing of the peace agreement in 2006 may have ended hostilities, but the peace process itself remains incomplete – hampered by a lack of infrastructure, weak institutional structures, a legacy of discrimination, lack of progress on security sector reform, poor economic performance, geographic isolation and harsh climatic conditions. The conflict’s residual impact has weakened social safety nets, causing a lack of basic services. Communities with a meagre resource base and marginalised populations are pushed beyond emergency thresholds and need life-saving humanitarian assistance in response to external shocks. Protection continues to be a concern, especially in the Terai, where the presence of armed groups has resulted in rising lawlessness and limited the reach of the State as well as operational space for aid workers. 2009 will see a number of highly politically-charged issues under debate – such as the future of the Maoist army combatants still in cantonments and the contours of future states under a federal structure – which will undoubtedly raise tensions and potential conflict.
The Nepal Humanitarian Transition Appeal for 2009 focuses first on urgent, on-going support needed within the next twelve months to save lives and protect the vulnerable. The caseload includes the chronically food-insecure, refugees on Nepali soil and the legacy of the 2008 flood season. Second, the Appeal for 2009 seeks support for specific measures to be taken by humanitarian actors to reduce the size of the 2009 caseload through preparedness actions in relation to natural disasters and protection measures in relation to the actual or potential conflict-related caseload. Third, given the need to start drawing down the size of the international humanitarian engagement in Nepal, the 2009 Appeal introduces an ‘exit strategy’ for humanitarian actors, targeting ‘transition’ not only from war to peace but from international to local actors.
For 2009, the UN and its partners are appealing for US$115 millionto meet urgent needs in Nepal. The Nepal Humanitarian Transition Appeal includes 69 projects submitted by 18 international NGOs, seven national NGOs and 10 UN agencies and affiliated organisations. While the total Appeal amount remains more or less the same as the 2008 Appeal ($106 million, plus the $15.5 million Supplement for Koshi Floods), several sectors have been reduced. The amount requested for refugee assistance has decreased by 13%, and protection by 21%. New sectors/clusters have been added, largely as a result of the Koshi floods; this includes Water and Sanitation, Emergency Education, and Camp Coordination and Camp Management. Increased food and fuel prices and the significant increase in the caseload for food assistance, however, have increased the absolute and relative amounts for this sector. Approximately 20% of the Appeal has also been earmarked for emergency preparedness measures in order to reduce the caseload in 2009 and beyond.