In September 2019, the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) was gearing up for recruitment of large number of mobile masons and social mobilizers in districts to provide socio-technical assistance.
Meanwhile, I was pleased to note that Chintamani Paudel, a differently-abled beneficiary from Kalika Rural Municipality of Rasuwa, had finally got his house rebuilt. Probing further on this case revealed that the concerned local government played a significant role to make this happen. The field engineer informed that the relevant ward office tasked a local contractor to reconstruct a single room house for Paudel. With the local government’s assurance, the contractor could procure the construction materials on credit. The final payment to the contractor was made after the beneficiary received the remaining tranches.
This is just once case amongst several where the local governments have played a significant role in assisting the vulnerable people to reconstruct their houses. The local governments are best positioned to address the issues related to the affected communities because of their geographical proximity and familiarity with the local context. In every interaction with the newly-elected representatives, I sensed an enormous concern not only on reconstruction but also on socio-economic recovery. The local governments, the closest governance system to the public, are the first-tier grievance handlers in case of housing reconstruction. That is why, they feel responsible towards households affected by earthquake.
In March 2018, whole Rasuwa district was abuzz with reconstruction of houses affected by April 2015 earthquake. However, amidst all the hustle and bustles, an old and differently-abled beneficiary Chintamani Paudel from Kalika Gaupalika had not figured out how to reconstruct his house. He had to relocate because of the land where his affected house was, had been declared hazardous. Land for his temporary shelter was provided by one of his nephews, which enabled him to get enrolled into the housing reconstruction program. Despite having received the first tranche of the government housing grant, he had not been able to start the reconstruction because of his age and disability. He did not have immediate family members and close relatives to help him either. He was just one of hundreds of vulnerable beneficiaries, who have not yet been able to start the reconstruction or have aborted the process and require additional support.
Socio-technical assistance is key to owner-driven housing reconstruction
Inadequacy of socio-technical assistance in housing reconstruction is an area extensively discussed. Whereas housing grant is released through government treasury and implementation arrangement is consistent across all contributors, socio-technical assistance extended by different agencies varies greatly.
JICA’s socio-technical assistance is based on Community-Based Reconstruction Committee (CBRC) guideline issued by the NRA and is delivered through an active community participation. And, the Government of India’s socio-technical facilitation package is comprehensive that also facilitates the households in getting their houses designed and approved by the concerned municipality in addition to other assistance. Similarly, there are number of I/NGOs providing socio-technical assistance to earthquake-affected households in their assigned areas having programs varying in scale and scope.
Technical assistance, although is embedded in the housing reconstruction program, has not been adequate as significant amount of field engineers’ time is spent in inspecting the houses at different stages of reconstruction. The World Bank has been continuously striving to ensure the provision of adequate socio-technical assistance to the beneficiaries who have not yet been able to reconstruct their houses owing to various reasons including vulnerability. For the NRA to conclude housing reconstruction within the stipulated time, focusing on the beneficiaries left behind in the reconstruction and tailoring socio-technical assistance package based on the individual needs are extremely crucial now.
NRA’s planned mobilization of Socio-technical Assistance (STA)
Provision of additional monetary assistance for vulnerable particularly to those having mobility issues, may not serve the purpose, if not complemented with some form of mobilization resulting in assistance from community, local government or civil society organizations. Socio-technical assistance teams that are in the process of being mobilized will assist those beneficiaries who are yet to start the reconstruction or have aborted the process.
In a mission of “leaving no one behind”, the STA teams will conduct rapid assessment of such beneficiaries to understand the impediments and will tailor the support accordingly. The local governments, as a crucial part of STA, can facilitate in developing focused interventions as well as in mobilizing not only social mobilizers and mobile masons but also the communities and civil society organizations as and when required. The NRA should leverage the potential of the local governments by integrating them into the planned socio-technical assistance program, without which the mission of “Leaving no one behind” is not likely to be accomplished.
By Sulochana Nepali
Disaster Risk Management Analyst, World Bank