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World Bank pledges up to US$500m for quake-hit Nepal

[WASHINGTON] The World Bank on Tuesday pledged up to half a billion dollars to help Nepal rebuild after two earthquakes killed nearly 9,000 people there in April and May, leveling homes and pushing hundreds of thousands of people deeper into poverty.

The World Bank, a global development lender based in Washington, said it would contribute US$200 million to rebuild homes in rural areas and US$100 million directly to Nepal's government.

Another US$100 million to US$200 million can be redirected from existing projects in Nepal to focus on reconstruction, the bank said, adding the funds will be replaced.

Nepal said reconstruction from its worst disaster on record would cost some US$6.6 billion over five years, and asked international donors to attend a conference this week to help.

Aid from donors including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank already supports two-thirds of Nepal's economic development.

One in every four Nepalis lives on a daily income of less than US$1.25, and the number of poor increased by 700,000 after the quake, according to government officials.

Last month, the United Nations complained that emergency funds for victims of the earthquake were slow to come in, as more than a dozen other long-running international crises, like Syria and Iraq, claimed donors' attention.

The World Bank normally focuses on the longer-term reconstruction that follows humanitarian aid, but has been quick to jump in with emergency funds in recent years, pledging at least US$400 million last year to help West African countries contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.