Distribution of earthquake recovery aid in Kyrgyzstan raises questions

Many residents of the Kyrgyz village of Nura, destroyed by a powerful earthquake in October 2008, had to build new homes on their own, despite government promises to relocate them to new houses prior to the onset of winter.

Tair Shamshiyev

2009-12-08

KYRGYZSTAN — Many residents of the Kyrgyz village of Nura, which was destroyed by a powerful earthquake in October 2008, had to build new homes on their own, despite government promises to relocate them to new houses prior to the onset of winter.

Aibek R. stated that his house was only 60 percent complete, and he had to finish the job himself or it would have had neither windows or doors when the cold weather set in.

Village residents cannot understand how panel houses that are easy to build remained under construction for an entire year and, in the end, were never completed. In their opinion, delays were due to a lack of transparency in the allocation of reconstruction funds.

Victims of natural disasters in Kyrgyzstan may elect either to receive a US$1,150 grant or a $4,600 loan, but Nura residents claim they have no idea of how those funds have been used. Aibek stated that they did not know how much money had accumulated in the accounts the government opened for them.

Accusations of lack of transparency in aid distribution are not new, and similar issues arose after previous natural disasters in Osh and Papan.

Because there is no centralised agency in Kyrgyzstan to channel humanitarian aid in a transparent manner, the system of monetary compensation leads to corruption. Gulcha Village resident Zhibek Zhoroyeva related that her house in the village several hours from Nura was seriously damaged in the same earthquake. The government commission, however, declared it safe and habitable. Only after she sent a letter to the president's administration did the commission change its opinion and provide her with a loan to build a new house.

Residents of regions suffering from natural disasters propose the creation of a parliamentary commission to investigate corruption in the distribution of humanitarian and financial aid.

According to the ministry of emergency situations, more than 25,000 families were victims of natural disasters in Kyrgyzstan between 2002 and 2009, and about 500 families still live in dangerous areas.

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