With road travel severely curtailed, schools shut and major cities under curfew for the last three weeks, WFP in Nepal has not been able to deliver critically needed food aid to communities around the country, including to over half a million school children.
A solution to the political-security crisis must be consolidated as soon as possible so that the poorest persons of Nepal do not continue to suffer
Anthony Banbury, WFP Regional Director for Asia
While more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees living in eastern Nepal have been receiving supplies after WFP appealed to all parties to allow safe passage to food convoys travelling to the region, most operations in other parts of Nepal have come to a standstill in the last few weeks.
Before this political crisis, WFP was providing food to over one million persons living in severely food insecure areas of the country.
The vulnerable endangered
“The crisis has put vulnerable communities in danger,” said Anthony Banbury, WFP Regional Director for Asia.
“Children have not been fed in schools, mothers and pregnant women have not received nutritional support and communities have not received food to support their poorest members. We hope that yesterday’s political developments will allow us to quickly resume food deliveries and distributions," he said.
“A solution to the political-security crisis must be consolidated as soon as possible so that the poorest persons of Nepal do not continue to suffer as a result of this crisis,” Banbury continued.
“WFP urges all parties to the present crisis to work together to see that these critical food aid programmes and other humanitarian operations can resume, and to work to avert a larger food security crisis.”
Since January, WFP has pre-positioned emergency supplies and equipment for immediate use in Nepal should political crisis or natural disaster result in extended food shortages in Kathmandu and elsewhere.
This pre-positioning, made possible by support from Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States of America, gives WFP crucial capability and flexibility in responding immediately to a deepening emergency.
Coping with the lean season
“Food aid is critically needed at this time of year when households in many districts have to reduce the number of meals in order to cope with the lean agricultural season,” said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, acting WFP Country Director in Nepal.
“In some areas, school feeding programmes provide children with the most nutritious food they will receive that day, giving them the crucial vitamins and minerals needed for their growth and development”.
As well as providing food to children in schools, WFP runs food-for-work programmes that provide rations to 300,000 people, allowing communities where food is scarce to build roads to access markets and nearby towns.
Feeding programmes threatened
Another 17,000 mothers and young children are provided with food as part of nutrition and health programmes.
All these programmes have been under threat with the closure of roads and other transport networks.
Working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), WFP also provides food to 105,000 Bhutanese refugees living in camps in eastern Nepal who are totally dependent on external assistance to meet their basic needs.
After food shipments to the refugees were disrupted following the start of the general strike on 6 April, WFP and UNHCR organised food convoys to the camps from the towns of Biratnagar and Kakarvitta, and appealed to all parties for safe passage.
The convoys have been travelling without hindrance since 18 April.