Hospital In Tents
It’s well over two years since the devastating earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, 2015 that killed some 9,000 people and left tens of thousands injured and homeless. The massive quake completely destroyed or damaged over half a million private houses, and a large number of schools and hospitals, government offices and cultural monuments. Unfortunately, the reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure has been inordinately slow. A large number of quake survivors have already spent two consecutive monsoons and chilling winters in makeshift tents and are now worried about their lot as another monsoon season has already set in. Similarly, a large number of school children are compelled to attend classes in tents. The condition of health centres and hospitals is no different; they are extending their services from the makeshift structures. A news report in this daily has it that Rasuwa District Hospital has been operating from the tent ever since the 2015 earthquake ravaged the hospital building completely. Two years on, even the makeshift tent has been reduced to a shabby condition; it is torn in many places and leaks while the structure is all but rickety indicating that it can collapse at any time. The hospital has no option but to extend its emergency and OPD services like child delivery, X-ray, HIV test and eye examination from this derelict tent house. The good news is that a well-equipped prefabricated hospital facility is at the final stage of its construction with technical and financial assistance of the Canadian Red Cross. However, it is also a temporary arrangement; the permanent solution to the problem is the reconstruction of the hospital building but no one knows when exactly Rasuwa District Hospital will be rebuilt.
The condition of Rasuwa District Hospital is only a case in point; a number of schools and health centres had been destroyed in other districts of the country hit by the Gorkha earthquake and they are still left in a wretched state. The reconstruction of religious, cultural and historical monuments is almost nil. It is unfortunate to note that the post-quake reconstruction has been unbearably sluggish. Why is this inordinate delay in the reconstruction of the houses, office buildings and heritages damaged by the natural disaster? The blame largely goes to the political forces. Firstly, the conflict between Nepali Congress and UML delayed the establishment of NRA and appointment of its chief which naturally hampered the reconstruction drive. The bureaucratic delay combined with repeated halt of work by NRA engineers is another reason behind the slow progress in reconstruction work. However, the lack of elected representatives in the local bodies may perhaps be the main reason behind the poor progress in rebuilding damaged infrastructure. The change of guard in NRA leadership owing to change of government is no less important a factor behind reconstruction setback; the new leadership at the Authority has maintained that it’s doing everything in its capacity to expedite reconstruction but the inability to spend the budget set aside for reconstruction work indicates otherwise. Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara has allocated Rs. 146 billion for the post-quake reconstruction for 2017/18 but going by the track record of NRA, a large chunk of that amount is likely to remain unspent during this fiscal. This phenomenon - a large portion of the budget set aside for development projects goes unspent while the national economy fails to achieve the expected level of economic growth - is, however, a systemic development constraint ailing the entire nation and is unlikely to be overcome unless radical measures are taken to cleanse politics and reform bureaucracy. Now that local elections have been held and new representatives elected in municipalities and rural municipalities, we can expect the situation to change for the better.
Kamini Rajbhandari is managing director of Nepal Telecom (NT), the state-owned telecommunication service provider of Nepal. Rajbhandari has been leading...