10-week in-field photojournalism intern for The Kathmandu Post (English), 50,000 circulation and The Kantipur Daily (Nepali), 250,000 circulation both daily print publications, as well as ekantipur.com online, stationed in The Kathmandu Valley in Nepal.
All images on this website are copyright ©Brianna Griesinger all rights reserved. Use requires exclusive permission.
For more of the story feel free to contact me, I love talking about my adventures!
If you just can't wait- check out my blog from my summer in Nepal here!
Or if you're looking for a good laugh check out one of my 2016 contributions to Backdrop Magazine, "Ailments Abroad" in Vol. 9 Issue 3 Page 43. I along with Cheyenne Buckingham, share some of our more difficult, or hysterical, experiences of getting sick abroad here!
Relief Funding Inequalities in Nepal 2015 by: Brianna Griesinger
Topic: Nepal 2015 Earthquake, relief funding inequalities, and the ties to social class inequalities
Abstract: Through extensive research of academic and media sources this paper will review the inequalities of relief funding distribution following the event of the 2015 Nepal earthquake. These inequalities are reviewed based on the present economic conditions, political positions, as well as consequences of the religiously stimulated caste system. This analysis will take into account the historical context of Nepal, including religion, colonialism, as well as the Civil War. UNICEF, Doctors Without Boarders, and The Red Cross among many other large non-profit organizations played an immediate role in the relief efforts in Nepal after the earthquake, however this paper will explore where their money was directed, and how it was selected to be used. Funding provided by governmental entities including, The United Kingdom, The United States, and China, as the top three donating countries, as well as the funding provided by the Nepali government is also examined for it’s financial role in the rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts. The purpose of this inquiry is to reveal if there is a distinct correlation between caste rank and amount of relief funding received by the community or individuals.
Relief funding inequalities exist in Nepal even considering the events of the 2015 earthquake, reflecting social stratification as based on the historic caste system due to current positions of political power as well as metropolitan media attention. The inequalities are reviewed based on the present economic conditions, political positions, as well as consequences of the religiously stimulated caste system. This analysis will take into account the historical context of Nepal, including religion, colonialism, as well as the Civil War. The purpose of this inquiry is to reveal if there is a distinct correlation between caste rank and access to relief funding by communities or individuals.
On April 25, 2015 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. The epicenter was less than 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu. The worst affected districts include Sindulpalchowk, Kavre, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Dolakha in the central region and Kaski, Gorkha, Lamjung in the western region. On May 12, 2015 a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck, just 17 days after the first. Around 8,617 people were killed, including around 150 people from the May 12 earthquake. 16,808 people total were injured. For the scope of this research, this paper will aim to uncover if relief funding inequalities can be tied directly to social class inequalities. This project focusses specifically on the Nepal 2015 Earthquake and will explore where money was directed, and how it was selected to be used.
The media, and social media in particular played a significant role in the fundraising of relief efforts after the earthquake. Social media accounts, such as Facebook, even set up a safety check feature to help individuals connect with friends in affected areas, and report if they were okay; similarly, Google ran “Person Finder.” Facebook, among other social media sites ran donation campaigns and with the simple click of a button users could send funds directly to organizations managing relief efforts in Nepal. Messages read “Nepal earthquake survivors need our help. Donate to International Medical Corps today and join us in supporting relief efforts.” Timelines on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, among other sites became flooded with fundraising opportunities.
In total $17.5 million dollars were donated through the Facebook campaign alone. IMC worked on emergency medical help, reproductive health, surgical care, providing medical supplies, with much of their accessible funding coming from those Facebook donations. One of the most significant outcomes from social media was the establishment of collective pages for relief volunteers. Specified pages allowed for people to connect despite cellular network setbacks. Social media sites allowed for volunteers to communicate relief supplies and locals to express need for such supplies in an organized platform. Pages such as these allowed for crisis mapping, a strategy that plots out geographical locations of where supplies are needed and allocate relief efforts to those areas. Social media kept people updated on death tolls, and spread advice about seeking safe drinking water and recommended sleeping locations. The question becomes which populations were able to access these internet resources, were the lower castes living in extreme rural poverty? In order to benefit, the effected must first have access to technology such as a phone or computer, and then have access to internet or cell service, and thirdly they must have networking connections from which their calls for help will be heard.
A total of about 330 humanitarian organizations became involved. By May 2, more than 80 foreign medical teams had reached Nepal; 68 had been deployed to deliver health care in affected districts. People living in poor quality and vulnerable homes bore the brunt of the disaster. Essential services such as water and electricity supplies remained disrupted in the capital for almost a week after the earthquake. “Most medical relief is needed in far flung rural areas and districts where health facilities have been badly damaged and have become dysfunctional. This is the challenge for health authorities as they have depleted resources to handle the situation. Several foreign medical teams have arrived but they need to be deployed appropriately,” Amit Gupta added, Gupta, a trauma care expert from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The United Nations: the office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs released $15 million from the U.N.'s emergency relief fund. The United States: Washington has committed a total of $10 million for response and recovery efforts, according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Japan announced a 1 billion yen ($8.4 million) grant and sent rescue personnel. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development announced a £5 million ($7.6 million) aid package on Sunday; £3 million will be used immediately; £2 million will be given to the British Red Cross. China committed $3.3 million. Canada: Donated 5 million Canadian dollars ($4.1 million) to aid organizations to help with life-saving efforts. USAID donated $1 million in emergency financial support. AmeriCares raised $750,000 to support relief efforts in Nepal. The American Red Cross gave $300,000 as their initial contribution. Save the Children gave £300,000 ($454,000) in emergency aid, but expects to eventually send millions. Christian Aid immediately sent £50,000 ($76,000) in aid on Saturday the 25th and had raised £124,000 ($188,000) from donations, with expectations to raise over £1 million for this urgent appeal. Oxfam, the British aid agency said online donations totaled £500,000 in Great Britain and $1 million in the United States.
Nepal’s economy predominantly centers around agriculture. The 2016 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Nepal 151st in the world stating that “Political instability still undermines the fragile rule of law. Property rights are poorly protected by the inefficient judicial system, which is subject to substantial political influence. Systemic corruption and a non-transparent legal framework continue to obstruct much-needed expansion of private investment and production.” Even before the earthquake the Nepalese faced chronic unemployment, while the market is considered highly inefficient, and property rights are not protected by the rule of law.
Castes were historically created based on labor occupation however have transformed into inherited stratifications, the general order being Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Sudra, and Dalits also commonly known as “the untouchables.” Dalits were originally classified due to having occupations of taking lives for a living, such as fishermen, disposing of dead cows, contact with human waste, or meat eating. Official figures state that Dalits make up 13% of the population while NGOs estimate this to be 20%. Due to such routine forms of discrimination and exclusion, the socio‐economic status/conditions of the Dalits are low in comparison to the other (higher) castes. In the current situation of post earthquake destroyed Nepal, the socio economic vulnerabilities of Dalits may create hindrances in receiving rightful entitlements.
The ideals behind the caste system were made illegal in 1962 in Nepal. Caste-based discrimination, in UN terminology also recognized as “discrimination based on work and descent, results from hierarchical caste systems that practice discrimination and exclusion founded on notions of purity, pollution and graded inequality.” Caste-based discrimination is widespread in South Asia, but exists across the globe with 260 million people reportedly affected worldwide. Due to their inherited social status, Dalits and similarly affected people continue to be exposed to a wide range of human rights violations and multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Humanitarian aid is defined by humanitarian principles of neutrality, humanity, independence and impartiality. Caste-based discrimination in the provision of humanitarian aid is a direct violation of those principles and a violation of international human rights law. Discriminatory practices include physical and social segregation, restrictions on occupation or enforcement of certain types of menial jobs as well as widespread caste-based violence. Dalits are marginalized, face social and economic exclusion and limited access to basic services, including water and sanitation. Dalits are more vulnerable to both natural and human-made disasters compared to non-Dalits due to their marginalized social position; the location of their homes, usually in marginal lands in the periphery of settlements; their vulnerable occupations, such as rubbish and sewage disposal, casual farm labor and lagoon fishing; and the nature of their housing – Dalits often have little or no land rights.
Hinduism is the religion of the majority of people in India and Nepal. It also exists among significant populations outside of the sub continent and has over 900 million followers worldwide. Most Hindus believe in a Supreme God, whose qualities and forms are represented by the multitude of deities which emanate from him. Hindus believe that existence is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, governed by Karma. Hindus believe that the soul passes through a cycle of successive lives and its next incarnation is always dependent on how the previous life was lived.
“Over the past nine years, Nepal has had eight prime ministers. The country still has no permanent constitution. And the same vested interests that once shaped its civil war, have become entrenched once again in its politics.” Nepal’s political problems are deeply rooted in the country’s history, shaped by centuries of entrenched feudalism and compounded by hundreds of years of British colonial rule of the subcontinent. After the British left India in 1947, Nepal briefly flirted with democracy. But then King Mahendra launched a military coup in 1960, got rid of representative institutions, and installed himself as the unchallenged ruler. A popular uprising in 1990, prompted by the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, succeeded in placing some constraints on the royal reign, the king’s eldest son and successor Birendra continued to wield considerable power. Capitalizing on the countryside’s endemic poverty, in 1996 Nepalese Maoists launched a civil war that lasted for a decade — at their peak they claimed to control roughly 80 percent of the country. And then in 2001, the crown prince went on a rampage and massacred nine members of his family, including the king and queen.
In short, while the country’s diversity has many positive aspects, it has also become a major obstacle to political development. The continuing absence of a constitution has hindered further moves toward democracy. Nepal had its last popularly elected local governments two decades ago. Corruption remains worrying. As recently as March, London threatened to cut its roughly $132 million aid budget unless Kathmandu improves its poor governance and fights “endemic” corruption. Few outside of Nepal heard about the news; but, the poor response to the earthquake, including reports about the misappropriation of relief supplies, means that Kathmandu can no longer pretend the problem doesn’t exist. There are perhaps thousands of people who died because help never came, or came too late. Most of the villagers have complained that most the shelters facilities i.e. tent/tarpaulins, safer locations, etc., have been given to adjacent villages and people from Dominant caste and having link with political parties.
Specialized medical equipment and supplies (including ventilators, digital x-ray machines, and surgical kits for orthopedic repairs) were sent into the country. The American Red Cross distributed tarps, blankets, mattresses, and toolkits to help people repair shelters, along with emergency health, water and sanitation assistance, cash grants for urgent needs and help for families to reconnect with missing loved ones. Relief items such as kitchen supplies and blankets to 70,000 families, tarps to help shelter more than 550,000 people, and more than 1.2 million gallons of clean water were distributed. “There are some ugly truths behind the big dollar amounts we hear are going toward aid in the wake of a disaster. How the money is allocated isn’t always transparent, it can be frittered away through corruption, and it can take months for the aid to actually get to its destination, should it arrive at all” (Hamlin, 2015).
Today the question becomes, were the relief supplies that were donated and distributed going to encourage long term rebuilding? Beyond the aid of emergency medical personal, and rescue efforts, which may not have found their way to those most desperate in short enough time during this disaster, will the distribution of donated goods and funds be enough to rebuild Nepal stronger than it was before the earthquake. Will they promote infrastructure that will aid in the accessibility of rescue efforts in the future through roadway way construction and so on? There is no question that the status of infrastructure before the earthquake is what inevitably allowed for the severity of loss of life as well as injury throughout the impoverished nation. If so many countries and organizations are willing to throw millions of dollars at a problem, will it only feed the the temporarily displaced wealthy, or will it be used to implement a new period of secure and fair infrastructure to all of Nepal’s people? While a tarp is a great resource in the immediate aftermath will it become the most stable home that Dalits rely on for the next 30 years, until perhaps nature strikes again, or is there a way to use these funds more efficiently and fairly, constructing stable homes and schools and emergency response systems in preparation for the next big earthquake? The money was stuck in the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara, this barrier is what segregated castes in 2015 as the most direly affected areas were in regions such as Gurkha and Dolakha, regions on the periphery with higher low caste populations.
Whether they were able to access the rescue services and shelter on time, 65 % of the respondents replied ‘no’, while only 35 % said ‘yes’. Asking about the relief and further immediate support as announced by the Government merely 20 % have said that the relief has reached them, 80% of the Dalits felt there has been wilful negligence in providing the relief and immediate support. The local officials, Party leaders, and people in power have favored people of their interests. In addition to the proper relief and rescue Dalit communities have complained that there was discrimination based on caste while distributing the relief material, providing shelter and doing the loss assessment. It was found that loss related to Dalits have been completely ignored in enumeration by the officials and government team. The main reasons behind this dissatisfaction is lack of proper survey of Dalit villages, Lack of scientific and professional assessment of the damage caused by the Earthquake and large‐scale influential processes at Village and District level. When asked if they thought Dalits had not been treated on a par with people from other castes because of caste prejudice, 70% of the respondents said ‘yes’, while 30% said ‘no’. Whether they had experienced any discrimination in relief and rescue services in comparison with the dominant caste communities, 60% said ‘yes’, the rest said ‘no’.
“In August 2008, more than 35,000 villagers were displaced by a massive flood along the Kosi River in Nepal. In December 2010, the Nepalese government was at the final stage of accomplishing its billion-rupee relief and rehabilitation programs for the Kosi deluge victims. The Chief District Officer's High Level Task Force team, created to assist with flood-related matters, which included representatives of a local volunteer body of villagers blatantly, lacked representation from the Dalit community. There was no safe drinking water available for 80 households in just one ward. The community lavished in agony for want of basic amenities until after two years, United Nations Development Project provided pipes and hand pumps for the villagers” (Bankaila, 2012).
Aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind. Aid priorities are calculated on the basis of need alone Wherever possible, we will base the provision of relief aid upon a thorough assessment of the needs of the disaster victims and the local capacities already in place to meet those needs. Within the entirety of our programs, we will reflect considerations of proportionality. Human suffering must be alleviated whenever it is found; life is as precious in one part of a country as another. Thus, our provision of aid will reflect the degree of suffering it seeks to alleviate. In implementing this approach, we recognize the crucial role played by women in disaster-prone communities and will ensure that this role is supported, not diminished, by our aid programs. The implementation of such a universal, impartial and independent policy, can only be effective if we and our partners have access to the necessary resources to provide for such equitable relief, and have equal access to all disaster victims. With the information gathered from the vulnerability mapping exercise in the disaster prone regions, in pre-disaster scenarios,
the next level is to monitor inclusion when disaster have struck.
The Inclusion monitoring exercise should be equipped to work at two levels. Firstly, it should generate knowledge of vulnerabilities of Dalits for humanitarian stakeholders to target their response aid to the identified Dalit habitats where response does not reach due to various systemic and other identified reasons. Secondly, this exercise should enable the humanitarian stakeholders to assess the actual receipt of relief services by Dalits, when both government and humanitarian aid has reached the disaster hit areas. This will further improve the responsiveness of the humanitarian stakeholders and help generate data for assisting the Dalit victims in securing their entitlements and doing advocacy at various levels.
With the information gathered from the vulnerability mapping exercise in the disaster prone regions, in pre-disaster scenarios, the next level is to monitor inclusion when disaster have struck looking to the future of the Inclusion Monitoring Tool. The Inclusion monitoring exercise should be equipped to work at two levels. First of all, it should generate knowledge of vulnerabilities of Dalits for humanitarian stakeholders to target their response aid to the identified Dalit habitats where response does not reach due to various systemic and other identified reasons. Secondly, this exercise should enable the humanitarian stakeholders to assess the actual receipt of relief services by Dalits, when both government and humanitarian aid has reached the disaster hit areas. This will further improve the responsiveness of the humanitarian stakeholders and help generate data for assisting the Dalit victims in securing their entitlements and doing advocacy at various levels.
The purpose of this inquiry was to reveal that there is a distinct correlation between caste rank and access to relief funding by communities or individuals. Relief funding inequalities exist in Nepal even considering the events of the 2015 earthquake, reflecting social stratification as based on the historic caste system due to current positions of political power as well as metropolitan media attention. The inequalities of the present economic conditions, reflecting failure of rule of law and regulatory inefficiencies, divided the political parties, and their corrupt positions, as well as consequences of the religiously and historically stimulated caste system as lower castes face challenges accessing clean drinking water, medical care, and are unable to gain the rights to their own property and therefore homes. This analysis considers the historical context of Nepal, including religion, colonialism, as well as the Civil War to highlight the constructions and reimplementation of these inequalities.
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