Shortage of essential supplies threatens millions of children this winter in Nepal: Unicef

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Nov 30, 2015-

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that more than three million children under the age of five in Nepal are at risk of death or disease during the harsh winter months due to a severe shortage of fuel, food, medicines and vaccines.

Issuing a press statement on Monday, the UN body stated that the government’s regional medical stores have already run out of BCG vaccines against tuberculosis while stocks of other vaccines and antibiotics are critically low. 

It may be noted that in the past ten weeks, vital imports of essential commodities have been severely restricted at Nepal’s southern border by ‘undeclared’ blockade from India citing security concerns to its transport entrepreneurs due to Tarai agitation against the country's new constitution.

“Children still recovering from two major earthquakes in April and May could be the worst hit.  More than 200,000 families affected by the tremors are still living in temporary shelters, at an altitude above 1,500 metres where weather conditions will be harshest this winter,” stated Unicef.

"During my recent visit to Nepal, I witnessed first-hand the precarious living conditions of many of the earthquake survivors.  They could now be facing a new disaster – without adequate food, protection from the cold, or healthcare,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director.

 Fears are also growing that the rising dependence on firewood because of the fuel crisis is increasing indoor pollution, which in turn could lead to a spike in cases of pneumonia.  Last year, more than 800,000 children under five suffered from the condition in Nepal and around 5,000 died. 

The Unicef also stated that the 125,000 newborns expected in Nepal in the next two months are also at particular risk.  Ambulance services across the country have been hit by the fuel shortage, resulting in a drop in births in hospitals and health centres. 

“The plight that children and their families are facing in the country has been worsening by the day and will deteriorate further in the winter months,” said Ms. Karin Hulshof, Regional Director of UNICEF for South Asia. “Children need to be protected from disease, cold and hunger. 

The UN body urged all sides to address the restrictions on essential imports of supplies to Nepal. 

Published: 30-11-2015 16:54

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