Mid-Year Review of the Nepal Common Appeal for Transition Support 2008
The beginning of 2008 brought landmark achievements in Nepal’s peace process, and significant change in the political landscape, with the former insurgents emerging as the largest political party in national elections. However, forming a new government and managing the political transition from a centralised monarchy to a federal democratic republic remains a daunting task. The impact of national political changes has yet to reach the majority of Nepal’s impoverished population, whose lives and livelihoods depend on continued humanitarian assistance.
The period leading up to the twice postponed Constituent Assembly (CA) elections was marred by tension and violence, but the 10 April elections were declared successful and credible by international observers. 25 parties entered the new 601-strong assembly, which is more representative than any previous legislative body due to complex quota regulations. The Assembly’s main aim is to produce a new Constitution within two years, but also to govern the country in the interim period. The CA met for the first time on 28 May, and will have to resolve several key issues, including the restructuring and reform of practically all governance institutions down to local government and security bodies, in particular, determining the future of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Nepal Army. Two months after the elections, the previous Interim Government remains in place, as the major parties have been unable to find consensus on basic power sharing issues.
While the current mandate of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) will expire on 22 July 2008, the Secretary-General has noted that the UN stands ready to provide continued support for the completion and consolidation of the peace process and for the long-term development of Nepal. The UN is awaiting a request from the government regarding whatever assistance it deems necessary and until then, the future of UNMIN or a post-UNMIN presence remains uncertain. It is clear, however, that major challenges and uncertainties regarding the peace process remain.
Meanwhile, challenges of a humanitarian nature persist and have in some cases been exacerbated by recent developments. Despite some encouraging achievements in recent months and considerable efforts by the aid community, the resilience of the most vulnerable communities is fragile, and it is necessary to be alert and respond quickly to emerging needs, as food insecurity has worsened and has attained crisis proportions in some areas. This comes against a background of nutrition and morbidity indicators at emergency levels. Legacies from the conflict remain unattended, with continued needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and conflict survivors. The resettlement of more than 100,000 refugees from Bhutan has just begun, but not without challenges. With weak institutions, armed groups operating freely in some areas, and widespread impunity, lawlessness looms large. The risk and high vulnerability associated with natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and landslides adds to the challenge and calls for immediate action to prevent potential major loss of life. Also, there are 800,000 stateless persons in Nepal.
The humanitarian community in Nepal has pooled its resources to identify the most urgent needs and to provide an adequate response in the form of direct assistance, advocacy and preparedness. The revised requirements for the Appeal are US$ 104 million. To date, 39% funding has been raised to meet these needs, and $63 million to fund the gaps is still required. Only with commensurate resources can humanitarian action be provided to Nepal’s poorest and most deprived, while the groundwork needs to be laid for a post-conflict Nepal that will be able to take on more of a role to protect its most vulnerable people on its own.
A combination of factors such as, rising food prices, drought, floods, and landslides are predicted to leave more than eight million people food insecure. Food shortages experienced throughout Nepal during the first quarter of 2008 led to a 40% increase in prices of key commodities, such as cooking oil, lentils and wheat. This will have adverse effects on those already living below the poverty line, which is further compounded by a 20 to 40% crop-loss in the mid and far western development regions. Food shortages are likely to increase child mortality and morbidity rates. At any given time, 450,000 children under five suffer from acute malnourishment (wasting), and 70,000 of these children are at risk of dying.
Natural disasters regularly impact upon communities throughout Nepal in the form of floods, landslides, and drought. Recurring seasonal disasters occur with unpredictable severity, affecting thousands of households annually and increasing the risk of epidemics. The floods and landslides with a magnitude similar to 2007 would affect 50,000 families this year. With high risk of a severe earthquake causing catastrophic damage in the Kathmandu valley, earthquake preparedness is an overriding concern. Much needs to be done with regard to strengthening the capacity of the state for disaster mitigation and emergency response.
Protection remains an enduring concern. Entrenched impunity for past and present abuses continues while the security situation remains fragile. Although a national IDP policy was instituted in February 2007, the accompanying directives, without which the policy cannot be implemented, still await Cabinet approval. This has hindered the implementation of relief and compensation packages for IDP. Land issues have led to an increasing number of slums and squatter camps in urban areas.
Access and quality of public health services continues to be an area of humanitarian concern. 27% of all deaths of women of reproductive age (15 to 49) are attributed to childbirth complications. Acute diarrhoea, cholera, acute respiratory infection (ARI), measles, Kala-azar (black fever), malaria, and Japanese Encephalitis remain key health concerns and require epidemiological surveillance systems. There is an urgent need for medical rapid response teams to be better prepared for emergencies, disease and pandemic outbreaks.
Despite resource shortfalls, conflict affected communities have been provided with food and employment opportunities. Joint UN and NGO projects have been initiated for community based therapeutic treatment for malnutrition. Some 550,000 conflict affected people in remote districts received food assistance. Emergency health kits have been distributed to 70,000 people in vulnerable districts. 20 remote district chapters of the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) have been equipped with basic first aid supplies and equipment. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) continued to monitor the human rights provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and helped to operationalise the protection cluster. Assistance has been provided to 3,500 children associated with armed forces and armed groups, and 2,000 vulnerable children in 58 districts. 402 mine risk education (MRE) focal points from 71 districts have been trained in emergency MRE. 12,000 additional hazard signs (to mark mines and improvised explosive devices) have been donated to the Nepal Army and Nepal Police. Resettlement of refugees from Bhutan has started. There has been considerable progress in discussions with the government and key actors to establish an Emergency Operations Centre for disaster management. Inter-agency coordination mechanisms, including the cluster approach to contingency planning, are being streamlined. The Nepal Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) country team country team has collectively produced an analysis of humanitarian needs and allocated $6 million in Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) funding for priority programmes to meet food, health and shelter needs in Nepal.
To continue priority programmes and to address a looming potential increased caseload, the Nepal appeal requires $104 million, of which $63 million is still needed. The revised amount represents decreases in project budgets that have not received funding, with increases attributed to the rise in operational costs and the addition of a small number of new priority projects.