July 7, 2008

“Acute Food Crisis” Hits Thousands in Nepal Far West

Text of report by Nepalese newspaper Kathmandu Post via eKantipur website on 7 July

Bajura, 6 July: "I have eaten nothing since I devoured two loaves of bread yesterday," said a pale looking Dhirendra Nepali, 13, of Kolti while he was returning home empty-handed from the Kolti food depot of Nepal Food Corporation (NFC).

The acute food crisis has been looming in at least 11 VDCs [village development committee areas] in northeastern Bajura District [i.e. the northeast of the district, in far western Nepal], leaving thousands of villagers in a state of famine.

Thousands of locals gathered at Kolti food depot for foodgrains. However, some 6,000 quintal foodgrain that the depot received had already been distributed.

Jagat Kunwar, an employee at the depot, said that it needed 10,000 quintals of foodgrains daily if they were to distribute as per the people's needs.

"Ultimately we will have to die since there is no food in the depot and our meagre production has already finished," said Rana B.K., a local from Sapta village. Dhansure B.K. of Sapta-9, who reached the Kolti depot for food, said: "I am not sure whether my children will be alive when I return home with food."

A local NGO distributed 40 kg of rice one month ago under the aegis of World Food Programme. However, the people have almost finished up that small quantity of foodstuff by now.

Some three weeks ago, hundreds of women had gathered at the District Development Committee (DDC) and threatened to commit suicide consuming poison en masse unless they were provided food at the earliest. But the political parties settled such a grave issue by providing just 25,000 rupees [approx 365 US dollars] as relief amount to each VDC.

Similarly, the remote Kalikot District [adjoining Bajura to the south] has also witnessed food scarcity. There is a shortage of foodgrain in the north-west Patala area in the district. Locals said that the damage to crops from hailstone in April was the major cause of the looming food crisis in the area.

"We have spent up all the cash and valuables in order to purchase food," said Ganga Bahadur Budha of Khin-1, adding, "Nothing is left to fill our belly now." The NFC had decided to transport 1,500 quintals of foodgrain for the locals of Patala area by helicopter. However, the food has not yet reached the area due to the rain.

Stating that the food price has skyrocketed in the recent days, the contractors appointed to supply food to the security agencies in Mid-Western and Far Western regions have demanded subsidy from the government. They claimed that they could not supply food at the rate agreed to in the past because of the steep price rises in recent days.

"The government should help us over the matter as the food prices have increased by up to 80 per cent after we inked the contract," said one food supplier.

Originally published by Kathmandu Post via eKantipur website in English 7 Jul 08.

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