August 10, 2008

Nepal Plans Action to Tackle Food Crisis in West

Text of report by website on 10 August

The government is preparing to bring out an action plan to deal with severe food shortage gripping tens of thousands of people in nine districts of northwestern Nepal.

"Well, we are preparing action plan. There are several issues being discussed by us, there should special plan to increase production and productivity, and due to open border we have not been able to check export of food despite the order to ban them. So we are looking into all these aspects," said Chhabi Lal Biswakarma, minister for agriculture and cooperatives.

According to a recent rapid emergency assessment by the government along with UN World Food Programme (WFP), 280,000 people in the nine districts - Rukum, Humla, Mugu, Bajura, Jajarkot, Dolpa, Dailekh, Kalikot and Achham - are at risk and need immediate food relief.

The officials at Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) say that they are making all efforts to reach to these populations. "But due to monsoon and strikes, the surface transport has been hindered and the cost of aerial transport has been hit by high fuel price. However, since this problem concerns the lives of people, we are making all kinds of efforts," said deputy general manager of NFC Sundar Raj Sharma.

Because of the hailstorms and drought, the winter crops like wheat and barley were badly affected in these districts. The crop production was down by up to 80 per cent.

As such, the affected people are employing several coping strategies.

"They are using a series of strategies, none of which are good. They eat one meal a day, they sell off disposable assets and in most cases, male members of the families go away as migrant labours," said Richard Ragan, country representative of WFP Nepal.

Originally published by website, Kathmandu, in English 10 Aug 08.

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