Nepal’s most vulnerable risk exclusion from recovery one year on from earthquake, Oxfam says

The skewed distribution of land that existed in Nepal before the earthquake where 4% of the population owned 40% of land and 65% of farmers owned just 15% of it – is not being corrected, and could instead result in an even more unequal society than befo
Oxfam in Nepal

A year on from the catastrophic earthquake, some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Nepal risk being excluded from the reconstruction process, said Oxfam in a new report released today. There is a risk that people who have lost their documents in the earthquakes, or who never had any documentation in the first place, will be excluded.

According to Oxfam, proposed government support is dependent on claimants holding certificates of land ownership. This group includes many women as well as tenant farmers and those considered ‘squatters’ who do not own the land they live and work on, even if they have lived on it for generations.

Oxfam's director in Nepal Cecilia Keizer said: “It is very difficult for Oxfam to accept that hundreds of thousands of people will be living in temporary shelters or unsafe houses for a second year because of delays in reconstruction and that a significant number might not qualify for support. We urge the Government of Nepal to heed the lessons of previous disasters and ensure that the most vulnerable groups - women, landless, Dalits and indigenous people are not pushed to the back of the queue. Nepal’s reconstruction remains an opportunity to rebuild not only a stronger country, but a fairer and more equal one.”

It is believed that the vast majority of 600.000 families [over 2.5 million people] in need of shelters last year still live in temporary or unsafe arrangements. In a recent survey by an Oxfam partner, 7% of respondents said they had lost or damaged important documents during the earthquake. At least 40,000 earthquake affected families had no land documentation to begin with. Around 26,000 people remain displaced and living in camps today in Nepal.

“Oxfam is urging the government to engage with communities in reconstruction and resettlement schemes to identify those in greatest need and to replace lost documents. With monsoon rains fast approaching in Nepal, it is imperative that reconstruction gets underway,” Keizer added.

The skewed distribution of land that existed in Nepal before the earthquake – where 4% of the population owned 40% of land and 65% of farmers owned just 15% of it – is not being corrected, and could instead result in an even more unequal society than before.

One group of road labourers in Pangretar, Sindhupalchowk district say they have been denied relief because they are seen as squatters.  One of the labourers said: “The authorities here say ‘you are not entitled to the support, your name is not in the list’ so we have to return empty handed.”

The report finds that women stand to lose out in a country where just one in every five households has a female name on land documents. Many single women do not own land and may have trouble obtaining documents without a male backer. Even married women whose husbands have migrated to work – estimated to account for a quarter of households – may be sidelined. Oxfam with partners has set up a network of Women’s Centres to advise women on their rights and help them to claim assistance.

Experience from other disasters shows that women and landless people are often excluded from reconstruction and recovery plans because they lack the documents needed to access support. This slows recovery for everyone as people end up living in temporary shelters many years later. After such an overwhelming show of generosity, the people of Nepal deserve a fast and fair route to recovery.

Despite these serious concerns, a mammoth effort from the Nepalese Government and humanitarian agencies has provided vital relief for hundreds of thousands earthquake survivors. Oxfam has helped  almost half a million people in seven of the worst-hit regions by providing clean water, emergency shelters, food, toilets and other vital relief.  Oxfam is now providing tools, training and cash for work to help people earn a living and rebuild their lives.

Oxfam in Nepal and its partners Humanitarian Accountability Monitoring Initiative (HAMI), Community Self Reliance Center (CSRC), Himalayan Conservation group (HCG) and National Network of Community Disaster Management Centre (NCDMC) on April 22 released a policy document called Building Back Right, Ensuring Equality in Land Rights and Reconstruction in Nepal.

The report highlights the inequalities seen in reconstruction for landless and those without documents and lobbies for inclusive reconstruction. The document prepares for the Barpak Conference, organized by Oxfam and its partners at the epicenter of the April earthquake on April 25.