KATHMANDU On her first visit to Nepal, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director, Sheila Sisulu, expressed concern over the impact of the country's conflict on the most vulnerable segments of the population, stressing that this severely hampers WFP's ability to provide them with food aid.
"The conflict hurts most those who can least afford it. In order for WFP to carry out its work to feed the hungry poor of Nepal, all parties must be committed to the security of our staff," Sisulu said.
Sisulu has been travelling to many parts of the country and has met top Nepali officials. On Tuesday, she had talks with Prime Minister Deuba in Kathmandu.
"I conveyed to the Prime Minister WFP's commitment to continue to provide much-needed food assistance in Nepal. I also explained how that assistance is inevitably put in jeopardy when the safety of WFP staff is put at risk as demonstrated by the more recent incidents over the last two months. The Prime Minister emphasised the benefits of WFP's assistance to poor Nepalis and promised that the Government would do everything possible to support and not hinder WFP's assistance," Sisulu said.
WFP's assistance in Nepal is aimed at helping improve people's lives in the areas of health, education and household economy. The agency's school feeding programme aims to provide nourishing meals in school to 450,000 schoolchildren and "take-home rations" to 99,000 girls as incentive to their parents to keep them in school.
In addition, the agency's food-for-work programme enables 46,800 vulnerable families to improve food security of some 295,000 beneficiaries while upgrading roads and rural infrastructure to benefit the community as a whole.
Lastly, WFP provides fortified blended food and health care services to 2,200 expectant and nursing mothers and 4,300 children under three years of age. The Programme also gives training and refresher courses in maternal and child health and nutrition.
During the course of her five-day visit, Ms. Sisulu visited several WFP projects in Danusha and Udayapur Districts: "WFP is supporting the most vulnerable country-wide and I personally witnessed the grave needs of the Nepali people. We must set aside all political considerations and put their welfare first," Sisulu said.
She also visited Sanischare camp in Morang District, home to more than 20,000 Bhutanese refugees, where she assured the refugees of WFP's continued commitment to their welfare. "WFP will continue to provide life sustaining food aid to the refugees while they live in the camps. But the camps must be temporary. I call on governments to quickly find durable solutions for all Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, They have been living in camps for over 13 years, and it is time that they are allowed to lead a normal life," said Sisulu.
More than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees rely on WFP supplies of staple food. The Programme provides supplementary feeding to some 42,000 school age children refugees to increase their micronutrient intake during the dry season. WFP also supports supplementary activities in the form of home gardening, loan schemes and vocational training to help prepare the refugees for a future life outside the camps.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
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