Donors pledging aid, government has no cash for immediate relief

Donors pledging aid, government has no cash for immediate relief

Donors have – post April 25 devastating earthquake – pledged billion of rupees in aid for Nepal, but the country has not received any hard cash. "The donors and international aid agencies have pledged billions but Nepal has not yet received aid in cash," finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said here today. The development partners should contribute in cash to the Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund to help Nepalis affected by the devastating earthquake, he said, adding that there will be greater need for funds as the country will have to focus on rehabilitation and reconstruction in immediately after ongoing rescue and relief efforts. "The billions of aid announced by the friends of Nepal is more in kinds like orthopaedic medicines, surgical materials, medical devices to perform implants and basic food materials, like rice, which are also a must, although demand for tents and tarpaulin sheets is high." Asking the donors to contribute to the Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund, he said that the Fund has no overhead cost, whereas the aid pledged by the donors also have overhead cost apart from cost of operating helicopters and mobilising search and rescue responders and medical team. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Kingdom had donated $15.1 million, followed by the United States with $10.8 million and China with $9.7 million. Likewsie, the £22.8-million emergency aid package pledged by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) also incorporates cost of deploying search and rescue and medical teams. The same is the case with European Union. The donors are interested to spend the aid directly, which has created pressure on the government that has been struggling to get more cash in Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund. He said that a huge portion of financial assistance mobilised through donor agencies’ partner organisations, especially international non-government organisations (INGOs) and non-government organisations (NGOs), do not reach completely to the needy as they have high administrative expenses and overhead cost. "But there is no overhead cost in the Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund," he said, adding that the complete fund goes directly to the needy. He also assured donor community that not a single penny collected in Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund will be used in administrative, travel and overhead expenses. Since the 7.8-magnitude devastating earthquake jolted Nepal on April 25, foreign governments, aid agencies, charities and firms have rushed to provide assistance to the country. But the Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund has no budget to help needy. Some 30 donors have pledged around $155.09 million in emergency aid to Nepal by today. The Fund has received cash from the domestic donors like Kheta Group – that has donated Rs 100 million – followed by other entrepreneurs. Likewise, few like the ADB ($3 million), Bhutan ($1 million), Hong Kong-based Li Ka Shing Foundation ($1 million) and Saudi Arabian Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz ($130,000) have contributed to the Fund. The one-door policy of aid distribution will also help reduce duplication and overlapping, Mahat added. " Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund is neither a political mechanism that could raise suspicion of mis-use," he clarified, adding that it has its own process and transparent. The Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund that has Rs 200 million has released Rs 4 billion in four installment of Rs 500 million twice, Rs 1 billion and Rs 2 billion. "If needed, the government will also transfer budget," Mahat said, adding that the government has spent around 55 per cent of the total budget of Rs 618 billion.
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