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.
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.
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.