THE BLOG

What Should Rich Governments Do to Support Nepal?

07/05/2015 08:25 BST | Updated 06/05/2016 10:59 BST

"Amidst all the goodwill, inflow of material help, personnel, and pledges for the future, it struck me that the only country to have given *cash* to the Nepal Government so far is Bhutan. Its PM personally brought a check of $1 million. Then the ADB gave $3 million yesterday. From the noise in the social media, you might believe otherwise."

Swarnim Wagle, a member of the National Planning Commission of Nepal wrote the above on April 30th on his facebook wall, five days after the earthquake struck Nepal. The issue that he raises - with funds failing to reach Nepal - needs to be urgently looked into.

Being a Nepali myself, I was always of the stance that the message I spread out needs to be a positive plea to help Nepal. I do think the British public have absolutely been positive - and have so far raised more than £38 million for the Disasters Emergency Committee.

However, the government had initially pledged a meagre £5 million in the beginning, which would be the cost of an average building in central London. It is only later that it pledged £22.8 millionafter the success of the DEC fundraiser. Across the Atlantic, the US government had initially pledged only $1 million, yesterday raising the amount to $22 million. Even Bhutan, a small developing country gave away $1 million to the Nepali government.

This raises three issues for me. Firstly, the initial response in terms of committing funds is, of course, deeply disappointing - that the US could think it in any way adequate to offer such limited funds is wholly unacceptable.

Secondly, and more positively, we see that the pressure from normal people on the issue, and the funds committed, also puts pressure on rich governments to give more themselves, which is positive and worth us celebrating.

But, thirdly the pressure on rich countries from us, normal people, can't stop with calling on them to make funding commitments. Even the pledged amounts need to reach Nepal as soon as possible. Our focus and attention needs to also be on what happens in practice after the promises are made - however limited they might be - to ensure that they are realised.

The UN has estimated that $415 million of foreign aid will be necessaryfor the immediate emergency relief measures. By the looks of it, Nepal will struggle to get the amount soon because its plights are obviously not in the priority of the US or the UK.

Consider this - the US House of Representatives has passed a legislation to give $200 million to Ukraine to fight a war. It has clearly prioritised here a war, over this much needed reconstruction effort after a natural disaster.

Now, I might be asked why so much expectations from the US and the UK governments. I am taking them only as examples. But it is clear that we need action from all those rich countries that are relatively very well able to help to lessen this human tragedy. A rapid, effective and well targeted response of the richest governments can still comfort the pain of a nation which is estimated to lose 10,000 lives from the earthquake.

When it comes to helping Nepal or any developing country after a natural disaster, it is not the time for developed countries to count the costs and benefits of their security apparatus. It is time for them to help selflessly to rebuild a country, to rebuild 30 million Nepali lives. To the presidents and prime ministers who are hailed as the "world leaders", this is a great opportunity for you to actually become world leaders and do more for developing countries in emergencies. President Obama, you have got a great chance to show the world that your Nobel peace prize was really worthwhile. Yes, you can.

Let's all continue to give what we are able to support aid efforts, but let's also keep the pressure on our elected leaders to ensure that they do the same, and that these funding commitments are delivered on as a matter of urgency.