After the Quake: Waiting for Relief

After the Quake: Waiting for Relief

Organisation: Centre for Investigative Jouranlism - Nepal (Nepal)

Publication Date: 04/10/2017


Seven reporters rode motorbikes and four-wheel-drive Jeeps into Nepal’s mountains to find some of the 15,000 men, women and children struggling through a second winter in emergency tents or corrugated-metal shacks. Back in Kathmandu, our data wranglers analyzed more than 6,000 pages of government records to track rebuilding grants to earthquake victims. Our goal was to document and explain delays in Nepal’s reconstruction efforts after its devastating April 2015 earthquake. Nepalese people are our audience, but we also wanted to offer a resource for international organizations seeking earthquake recovery data. Our multimedia project, “After the Quake: Waiting for Relief,” went live on the Centre for Investigative Reporting-Nepal website in February. The project is a first in Nepal: seven young journalists from seven different media outlets collaborated on a deep data dive. Our very small team, brought together solely for this project, accomplished our goals at a much higher level than we thought possible. (By the way, all of the journalists had full-time jobs requiring them to file, at times daily, stories.) Our data chief Arun Karki analyzed records of reconstruction grants promised to 625,986 households. Using the results, he created an interactive map with granular detail of the slow pace of funds to earthquake-stricken areas. Collectively, stories showed that the Nepal government has so far spent only 3 percent of more than $900 million promised to residents to rebuild. While the seven journalists collaborated on data, each reporter produced and published an individual story. A BBC-Radio reporter revealed that international charities promised to build 22,000 houses, but have completed only 900, primarily because slow-moving Nepali authorities have not processed permits. Other reporters found that NGOs abandoned projects in mid-stream. Disorganized and fractionalized government reconstruction processes led to omission of thousands from relief rolls. A Republica reporter wrote that a distressing scarcity in manpower was delaying construction – even for those who had money and materials. Rudra Pangeni reported that a mere 150 masons trained in earthquake-resistant techniques were working in the hard-hit Sindhuli district – so few that the bricklayers would need 130 years to erect the district’s 34,256 demolished houses. A Fulbright Specialist award provided Washington, D.C.-based journalist Lucinda Fleeson the means to team up with CIJ-Nepal editors to coordinate the project. The Fund for Investigative Journalism, in Washington, D.C, provided funds for the reporters to take extra time to analyze data and travel to remote areas. Our stories contribute to the earthquake reconstruction story that will dominate Nepali news for many years. But we demonstrated that time-consuming data analysis can be shared collaboratively by multiple news outlets to document the human cost of Nepal’s heartbreakingly slow recovery.


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