Nepal shortages put millions of children at risk: UNICEF

The landlocked Himalayan nation has been struggling to cope with a sharp drop in vital supplies after protesters on September 24 began blockading a key border crossing to demand changes to a new Constitution.

Updated - September 02, 2016 12:05 pm IST

Published - November 30, 2015 11:14 pm IST - KATHMANDU:

Nepali students in Kathmandu show solidarity against the border blockade.

Nepali students in Kathmandu show solidarity against the border blockade.

Severe shortages of food and vaccines due to border protests have left millions of children in quake-hit Nepal at risk of disease or death this winter, UNICEF said Monday.

The landlocked Himalayan nation has been struggling to cope with a sharp drop in vital supplies after protesters on September 24 began blockading a key border crossing to demand changes to a new Constitution.

Nepal’s government accuses neighbouring India of orchestrating the blockade, a charge it denies. The disruption has caused crippling shortages of fuel and medicine, leaving aid organisations scrambling to deliver relief to homeless quake victims seven months after the April 25 disaster killed nearly 9,000 people. “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,” UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, said in a statement.

More than 200,000 families are still living in temporary shelters at an altitude above 1,500 metres, it said.

“The risks of hypothermia and malnutrition, and the shortfall in life-saving medicines and vaccines, could be a potentially deadly combination for children this winter,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF's executive director.

“They could now be facing a new disaster — without adequate food, protection from the cold, or health care.”

The shortages have also resulted in fewer medically-supervised deliveries due to limited ambulance services, putting the lives of some 125,000 expected newborns at risk over the next two months, the agency said.

Talks resume Meanwhile, Nepal’s top political leaders met on Monday with representatives of the Madhesi ethnic group, but no agreement was reached

After Prime Minister K.P. Oli and top leaders in the coalition government and the main opposition Nepali Congress party held discussions on Monday with Madhesi leaders, both sides said there was no agreement reached but pledged to continue with talks.

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