Media Monitoring of #NepalEarthquake - May 9

A fortnight of fear with two weeks passed and the stories continue to be told with the death toll nearing 8000. With the news that Christiano Ronaldo, the mega-star footballer donating 5 million pound and reports that China’s rescue and relief operation to Nepal its biggest ever to a foreign country, there is no denial of the fact that there is still greater focus on disaster management of Nepal by the global community. An interestingly contrasting viewpoint is put forward by Andrew Nelson, an anthropologist about that the global media preferences while reporting the earthquake incidents and what was really missed from reporting. Major highlights of the media coverage:

Celebrities for Nepal

Christiano Ronaldo, mega star striker from Real Madrid donates 5 million pound for the earthquake victims as reported by Telegraph Nepal. Several other celebs have requested their fans and global community through UNICEF to support Nepal with powerful messages such as “Children of Nepal are in danger”, by Juan Mata, from Manchester United Football Club and singer Selena Gomez saying, “This isn’t a moment to lose”. Deepak Chopra, a public speaker has also requested his followers to support the earthquake victims through Mercy Corps. Paras Khadka, a youth icon in Nepal and captain of Nepali national cricket team also raises Rs. 2 million through his fundraising tours in Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin by auctioning his bat.

The Hard Road 

There are multiple challenges as reported in the media to come to normalcy and start rebuilding efforts, especially in rural communities. The New York Times writes that Nepalese villages devastated by the earthquake are left with minimal or no attention and are struggling to cope with the disaster as international attention shifts and there are no relief efforts being carried out. BBC News also reports on challenges to the economy while already hard-hit economy gets worsened due to the loss of human resources and property. Nepali Times also presents a bleak picture of areas close to Kathmandu such as Nala, Chhatre Deurali, Harisiddhi, Bungamati, Sankhu and Changu Narayan that have been neglected of relief support. Rescue efforts in Langtang have been affected by the snowfall. Temporary shelters at Bhaktapur were also flooded with heavy rain. There are also complaints about distribution of low quality tarpaulins as most of them have already been damaged.

The Missed Plot

Government of Nepal has admitted several lapses in disaster preparedness, rescue and relief operations as reported by Republica. According to Bam Dev Gautam, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, “The disaster was beyond our expectations and unprecedented in scale. So our efforts could not meet the expectations of the quake victims on time.” Chief Secretary also speaks on similar lines as he says, “"I admit that we didn't have capability and preparedness to handle a disaster of such magnitude. Even if we did, we would not be able to maintain that scale of resources, all the time, in anticipation of such disaster." Republica also reports about flaws in relief distribution due to lack of government coordination and victims near highway and roadside receiving more relief than those in the distant places. Andrew Nelson, Lecturer of Anthropology at University of North Texas brings international community to attention by raising serious concern over global media’s biasness and preferential reporting as ‘classquake’ of earthquake. He points out some issues that were not addressed:

  • Attention was focused more on Nepal's recognizable symbols and victims at Mt. Everest Base Camp while under reporting of devastation in rural Nepal was more extensive
  • Living in those fragile mud houses are the rural poor, and the indigenous Newar and recent rural-to-urban migrants who cannot afford to rent or buy new houses outside of the congested urban cores or peripheral agro-towns of Kathmandu valley, therefore it is a ‘classquake’.
  • Nepal’s national building code is a perfect example of the growing disparity between Nepal’s rich and poor classes. Drafted in 1994, the code was not enacted for nine years, until 2003. As of Saturday’s quake, only three (Kathmandu, Patan, Dharan) of Nepal’s 58 municipalities had adopted the code as mandatory in the house-building permit process.
  • Delay and partial implementation of the code, growing real estate and construction industries benefit from an ineffective code. A lack of regulation allows companies to market earthquake safety as a selling point rather than a requirement. Developers promise code compliance to homeowners, but then bribe inspectors in order to take cost-saving short cuts.

Efforts Continue

Despite the criticism, the government hasn’t taken any step backward and has continued in his efforts. It has deployed engineers and other officials for inspection to affected districts such as Kavre. Similarly, to prevent epidemic outbreaks, the government along with the support of volunteers has initiated cleanliness campaigns in Bhaktapur. To prevent further damage on the road and disrupt mobility, safety checks have been conducted at bridgesHarvard School of Public Health has released a webcast on humanitarian response to crisis in Nepal to discuss on responding to disaster and crisis management in Nepal. BBC Newshas also reported that 92 more Gurkhas have been deployed to Nepal to provide aid. UK's Disasters Emergency Committee has claimed that it has reached more than 60 villages, towns and camps in the weeks following the earthquake. They will be providing support to the villages of the serving and veteran Gurkhas and their families. A separate team of Gurkha soldiers already been deployed to set up water purification system in Kathmandu. World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Programme (WFP) have also set up a transit depot in Nepal to store and dispatch supplies to affected areas. Time has also encouraged foreigners to visit Nepal and promote tourism in Nepal to revive its economy with a powerful message, “The best way to help Nepal is going there on a holiday.”

Learning from Experience

Oxfam has also released its report about its experience of disaster management of Haiti – which could be crucial in terms of planning relief and rebuilding operations as next step for crisis management in Nepal. The key issues to consider as highlighted in the report are: establishing local partnerships, ensuring security in campsites, empowerment of women, increased community buy-in into projects and programmes, more informed staff, increased understanding about gender sensitive approaches, information to and awareness of affected population, comprehensive gender analysis coupled with on-going programme monitoring and evaluation, developing common strategy between NGO community, public institutions and international organization.v

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