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As Nepal Crisis Deepens, Food Delivery at Risk


Nepal's major political parties continue to clash over who will lead the county's new majority government, following last week's resignation of the Himalayan country's Maoist prime minister. The ongoing political instability is hard felt in a food-deficit country that is already vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition.

Nepal's history of political instability - amplified by last week's resignation of the country's Maoist Prime Minister - means continued food shortages for Nepal's rural poor.

WFP Country Director Richard Ragan says Nepal's recent political chaos has "thrown fuel on the fire," in a country already suffering from massive food shortages. Recent parliamentary disruption has the World Food Program working overtime to find non-governmental ways to continue to feed two million of Nepal's most needy citizens.

"In a situation where there is not a government in place, then you have to be able to use different instruments to respond to needs," said Richard Ragan.

According to a recent U.N. report, every other child under five in Nepal is chronically malnourished. The World Food Program employs about 400 trucks daily to distribute essential food and supplies.

Many are blocked by political protests - known as "Bandhs." This is especially common in western Nepal near the border with India, where last month an ethnic group known as Tharu blocked roads and closed businesses for two weeks. Last year, 550 Bandhs rocked Nepal, costing the country an estimated $8 million a day.

The WFP's Ragan says because of war-time agreements food distribution was easier in the days before such protests, when the country was engaged in its 10-year civil war.

Ragan says this has left many of Nepal's rural poor waiting for their peace dividend in a new democracy plagued by growing pains.

"There was a lot of hope once the peace process was initiated that some sense of normalcy would return to people's lives, and people are still waiting," he said.

Nepal is ranked the poorest country in South Asia.

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