NEPAL: WFP calls on donors to act now
Recent food price hikes in food-insecure remote villages have led to more families becoming dependent on WFP and the government for assistance
KATHMANDU, 19 August 2008 (IRIN) - The World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for urgent assistance to ease the food crisis in the hills and mountains of Nepal’s far- and mid-west regions.
“We urge the international donor community and private sector donors to act now and commit US$70 million that WFP needs to prevent these vulnerable populations from further malnutrition and hunger,” WFP deputy country representative Dominique Hyde told IRIN on 19 August.
Rising food and fuel prices, drought, hyperinflation and the lingering effects of the decade-long conflict (1996-2006) have pushed 2.5 million people to the edge of survival in Nepal, she explained.
“Our first priority is to get food to the people in the mid- and far-west of Nepal suffering from drought and high food prices, whose relief has been delayed by the effects of ongoing transport strikes and now monsoon weather,” said Hyde.
WFP lists Nepal among the worst 16 countries worldwide in terms of food shortages, and is preparing to reach 2.5 million people in at least 31 districts by mid 2009 - up from 1.2 million at present.
To do this, WFP’s budget of US$54 million would have to nearly double to $104 million, according to WFP. Recently, it received a $6 million contribution from Saudi Arabia but needs a lot more.
“We have already seen how rising food and fuel prices have forced families to reduce the amount of food they consume, putting them at risk of malnutrition,” said WFP country representative Richard Ragan. Forty percent of Nepal’s nearly 27 million people are undernourished and millions live in constant threat of hunger, he added. Nine districts most at risk
Most at risk are nine districts in the far- and mid-west - Accham, Rukum, Kalikot, Humla, Mugu, Dolpa, Bajura, Dailekh and Jajarkot - according to a joint emergency food and security assessment
by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and WFP.
It found that over 90 percent of the population experienced food shortages in these districts, which have very poor roads and are prone to drought, hailstorms, landslides and crop losses. Most people there are surviving on less than US$1 a day.
Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
|Farmers in Nepal's far western and mid-western regions have been struggling to grow the crops they need|
In Accham, local people are in dire need of emergency food assistance, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nepal
There is no rice, oil or salt and there are reports that schools will have to close down soon due to the shortages, according to the government’s Nepal Food Corporation (NFC), a key agency responsible for distributing rice in food insecure districts at subsidised prices.
According to the NFC, nearly 25 Village Development Committees (VDCs) in Accham District have been affected by food shortages. In another district, Dailekh, there are reports of most families migrating to India due to lack of food. Logistics
Since early July, WFP has delivered food to over 50,000 needy people. "Now that the weather and strike situation has eased, we are working closely with our suppliers and partners to scale-up food relief efforts to reach the 230,000 people still in need of assistance living in the nine drought-affected districts," Hyde said.
In the 40 years that WFP has been operating in Nepal it has developed its logistical capacity - using a combination of trucks, yaks, air operations and porters - to deliver food to people living in some of the most remote places on earth, Hyde said.
However, the combination of fuel shortages and transport strikes is a worrying trend: “We are assessing all possible logistical means to ensure that the most vulnerable people receive food when they need it most,” she said.