One year on from the Nepal Earthquake

 

It is one year since the earthquake in Nepal which killed nearly nine thousand people, injured tens of thousands, and left half a million families homeless. Even before this tragic event, Nepal was one of the twenty poorest countries in the world, and the estimated economic impact of the earthquake was around $10 billion, fifty percent of its entire GDP. There was no question that the UK would help Nepal in the aftermath of the disaster, both in terms of emergency humanitarian relief and also longer term rebuilding. Within a month of the earthquake, which happened when I was a DFID minister, we had released over £33 million of help, including match-funding the £5 million in donations given privately by generous people across the UK.

Nepal illustrates the importance of development, both for immediate humanitarian relief and for helping countries to lift their populations out of poverty long term. We cannot predict disasters, but we can help Nepal and nations affected by such events to rebuild their communities in a way that mitigates for the future. DFID projects in Nepal in the last year have saved 6,000 hectares from deforestation, thus helping to protect against landslides. They have built over 4,000 kilometres of roads, the benefits of which include better access to rural communities for emergency services. They have improved disaster preparedness for an estimated 650,000 people across the country. These projects are not without institutional hold-ups, which is why in nearly every country in which DFID works it also has projects focusing on governance and institutional capacity building.

We only need to see the mass of people seeking to move across continents to see that development in the poorest, most fragile countries is vital for global stability.  But once again the right-wing press is on a concerted campaign against international aid, in particular against the legislation that Lib Dems put through Parliament last year which mandated that 0.7% of GNI should be spent on overseas development. Twice in the last few weeks this has made the front page of the Daily Mail. We hear that this will be a sustained campaign right the way through to the 2020 election.  Though the press isn’t always consistent – the Mail noted approvingly that Joanna Lumley was proud of what the UK did in response to the earthquake this time last year in Nepal.

Jeremy Purvis, who was responsible with Michael Moore for taking the bill through Parliament, and Tim Farron have both been strong in their rebuttal of the Mail’s campaign. As a party, we need to stay firm in our defence of this achievement and continue to champion the successes of British development funding across the world.

Methods of delivering international aid evolve over time, and increased transparency and scrutiny of projects are vital in ensuring that where we choose to spend British money, it is spent well. As a country we have so much expertise to share with the poorest places in the world, and spending just 0.7%, a tiny fraction, of our GNI makes a huge difference to the lives of many millions worldwide. I have seen the difference our aid has made in Nepal, whether this in improving the lives of girls who are now in school, or communities where buildings are now more resilient against the ever-present danger of earthquakes around the Himalayan rim. Our party is internationalist, and we will continue to be proud of our achievements, and vocal in our defence of development.

* Lindsay Northover was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Development, 2014-15, and is Liberal Democrats Spokesperson on International Development in the House of Lords.

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One Comment

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Apr '16 - 1:31pm

    0.7% on international aid is fine but can we please also meet the 2% NATO target? Only the Conservatives and UKIP seem committed to this.

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