WITH the monsoon season approaching, humanitarian relief to victims of two powerful earthquakes in Nepal is in danger of becoming a disaster with a chronic shortages of funds, trucks, planes and helicopters to get the aid where it is needed.
The humanitarian logistics effort is also being hindered by overly bureaucratic administrators and geopolitical tensions, reported Lloyd's Loading List.
United Nations officials admit that they still haven't identified how many people in remote mountain villages need aid since the first quake struck on April 25 due to a lack of helicopters and the UN's inability to secure access to military helicopters.
If these stranded families are not reached before the monsoon season sees temperatures dip in June, one UN sourced admitted "they will be on their own".
Of more concern, many of the hundreds of thousands left without food or shelter who are in relatively easy reach of the capital Kathmandu by road are also not receiving relief.
Nineteen-year-old Suman Khadka, whose flattened village is a three to five hour drive from Kathmandu depending on how many landslides have blocked the road overnight, has instead taken it upon himself to source food and shelter.
"The road to Kathmandu opened on April 28, but we've received nothing from the government or NGOs yet and we're worried about the monsoon," he said.
"With funds raised privately in Indonesia, we've hired our own trucks and we can get a five-tonne vehicle directly into the village - but we are running out of money. We don't understand why if we can do it, the big charities and our government cannot."
In terms of inbound shipments, estimates from charterers and aid co-ordinators put the number of freighters waiting to fly in aid to Nepal, but unable to secure a landing permit, at more than 50. An estimated 550 tonnes of aid is waiting to be loaded at New Delhi airport alone.
Yet scheduled passenger services are continuing to operate as normal while charterers complain of a "paper-chase" to get landing permits for inbound chartered freighters.
After initially removing most red-tape after the April 25 earthquake, Nepali authorities have also now tightened customs at road borders. This has further delayed aid that has been sourced in India, flown into New Delhi for onward trucking or shipped into ports such as Kolkata.
At Kathmandu airport, the only international gateway, capacity is scarce and tensions between Indian, US, and Chinese military presences are palpable. Most of those on the ground believe the Civil Aviation Authority is under immense pressure from the various "Great Powers" over landing permits. "This is the most likely cause of the landing permit chaos," said one source.
DHL Disaster Response Team has successfully run round-the-clock operations at Kathmandu airport, helping to clear backlogs by handling incoming freight on the apron, but it remains the only logistics major with a visible presence in Nepal despite the huge shortages evident in expertise and equipment.
Source : HKSG.