Show Us The Aid: Anger In An Ancient Nepali Town

Show Us The Aid: Anger In An Ancient Nepali Town

4:18pm May 22, 2015
A grandmother and her grandson sit on the belongings that they have salvaged from their collapsed homes on April 29, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
A grandmother and her grandson sit on the belongings that they have salvaged from their collapsed homes on April 29, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Omar Havana / Getty Images
  • A grandmother and her grandson sit on the belongings that they have salvaged from their collapsed homes on April 29, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

    A grandmother and her grandson sit on the belongings that they have salvaged from their collapsed homes on April 29, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

    Omar Havana / Getty Images

  • People in Bahktapur, Nepal, say aid is only going to people who have influence in their city and the rest are left to fighting over a few tarps.

    People in Bahktapur, Nepal, say aid is only going to people who have influence in their city and the rest are left to fighting over a few tarps.

    Kirk Siegler / NPR

  • A man stands next to a homemade sign pleading for help in the ancient city of Bakhtapur, which was devastated by the earthquake.

    A man stands next to a homemade sign pleading for help in the ancient city of Bakhtapur, which was devastated by the earthquake.

    Kirk Siegler / NPR

Where is the aid?

That's what the people of the ancient city of Bhaktapur want to know.

The historic gate to old Bhaktapur is about the only thing still standing after the earthquake. The ornate temples have crumbled. Brick homes were reduced to rubble. People have lost everything, including loved ones.

People are living under tarps or out in the open, without running water or toilets. Some 70 people are living in an improvised hut. Flies are everywhere. People say they haven't had any help from the outside — no medicine, no food.

People in Bahktapur, Nepal, say aid is only going to people who have influence in their city and the rest are left to fighting over a few tarps.

People in Bahktapur, Nepal, say aid is only going to people who have influence in their city and the rest are left to fighting over a few tarps.

Kirk Siegler/NPR

As if to underscore their point, a truck drives by with jugs of water but doesn't stop.

There are signs of progress in some parts of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, which is just a few miles away. The power is back on, if sporadically. Shops and cafes are reopening, the streets are again teeming with taxis and scooters.

But that's not the case in Bhaktapur. And patience is running out.

I meet a woman named Annapurna Rajbhandari, standing with her arm around her 78-year-old mother, who's shaking with fear. The mother starts to cry softly. Her medicine was buried, the daughter says. All the shops are closed so she can't even find even basic medicines.

It's now nearly a week since the earthquake, and criticism about the government's response has only sharpened.

Where is the Nepal government, asks Dev Sahi, who's wearing a black leather jacket and sunglasses.

Only those with influence are getting supplies, he says. Some people even had to fight to get a tent.

A man stands next to a homemade sign pleading for help in the ancient city of Bakhtapur, which was devastated by the earthquake.

A man stands next to a homemade sign pleading for help in the ancient city of Bakhtapur, which was devastated by the earthquake.

Kirk Siegler/NPR

Our translator, Thakur Amgai, says the men we're meeting have a message: We would like to tell this to the world, that if you want to give relief don't give it to the government, because the government is not giving to us. Give the relief directly to the people.

One bit of good news: There's been a break in the rain, so helicopters are able to fly in supplies to some of the hardest hit areas. But there's still confusion about how the aid is getting distributed.

In one case, a military helicopter on loan from India is loading up bags of rice — only to be told some of the bags will have to be taken off to make room for a TV crew from New Delhi.


This story was reported with support from the International Reporting Project.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

There are more signs of progress today in some parts of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. It's been nearly a week since the deadly earthquake. The power is back on, if sporadically. More shops and cafes have reopened, and the streets are again teaming with taxis and scooters. But that is hardly the case in places just a few miles outside the capital. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports from one neighborhood that remains cut off from aid.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: In the ancient city of Bhaktapur, men argue with one another on a rutted dirt road near the local police station.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

SIEGLER: A truck has just driven by with jugs of water, but it didn't stop. Patience is running out. It's less than a 45-minute drive from Kathmandu's international airport, they say. Yet promised blankets, tarps and food haven't arrived. The historic gate entrance to old Bhaktapur is about the only thing still standing. The famous ornate temples crumbled. The brick homes reduced to rubble. People have lost everything, including loved ones.

I'm walking through an improvised hut where 70 people are living. There are flies everywhere, a couple of pregnant women. People here say they haven't had any help from the outside - no medicine, no food, nowhere to go but here.

DEV SAHI: (Foreign language spoken).

SIEGLER: The man doing most of the talking is Dev Sahi. He's wearing a black leather jacket and sunglasses. "Where is the Nepal government," he says. "Only those with influence are getting supplies. Some people even had to fight for their tents." Our translator, Thakur Amgai, says these men have a message.

THAKUR AMGAI: I mean, we would like to tell this to the world that if you want to give relief, don't give it to the government because the government is not giving to us. Give the relief directly to the people.

SIEGLER: This part of Bhaktapur also has many elderly people. Not far away, a woman named Annapurna Rajbhandari has her arm around her 78-year-old mother, who shakes with fear.

ANNAPURNA RAJBHANDARI: (Foreign language spoken).

SIEGLER: They're both wearing the traditional Nepali saal (ph) wrapped across their red dresses. As Rajbhandari shares her story, her mother starts to cry softly. "My mother's medicine was buried," she says.

RAJBHANDARI: (Foreign language spoken).

SIEGLER: "And all the shops are closed," she says, "so we can't even find any basic medicine." It's now nearly a week since the earthquake, and criticism about the government's response has only sharpened. People continue to live under tarps or out in the open without running water or toilets. One bit of good news - there's been a break in the rain. Helicopters are now able to fly in supplies to some of the hardest-hit areas. But there's still confusion about how the aid is getting distributed.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: What is the weight of this?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The weight - we don't weight.

SIEGLER: Here, the pilot of an Indian military helicopter is asking Nepalese soldiers how many bags of rice they can load.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I want 600 kg - only 600.

SIEGLER: Some of the bags have to be taken off. They're making room for a TV crew from New Delhi. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Bhaktapur, Nepal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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