Friday, May 01, 2015

Averting Hunger in Nepal

Video: Emergency coordinator Erik Johnson from from ACT Alliance at a food distribution in a school in Jharuwarashi in Lalitpur - 45 km outside Kathmandu.

The United Nations sent a  disaster response team  to Haiti in the aftermath of  the devastating earthquake that hit Port au Prince and surrounding areas in 2010. The team sent to Haiti included peacekeepers from Nepal.  The participation of Nepalese troops in the aid operation would have gone unnoticed were it not for studies linking them to the outbreak of cholera in Haiti.

I don't want to dwell on the cholera question, other than to point out that the disease is more likely to appear in poor countries with deficient water-treatment and sanitation systems. "Industrialized countries have seen practically no cholera cases for over a century because of their good water and sewage treatment infrastructure. However, the causative agents (Vibrio cholerae O1 and O139) continue to thrive wherever crowded housing conditions exist and water and sanitation facilities are suboptimal," said the World Health Organization.

What I want to underscore is that Nepal, a relatively poor country, readily sent troops to assist with disaster assistance in another poor country across the globe to be part of a UN recovery operation  Five years later, Nepal is the country that desperately needs assistance. The global community has responded generously with emergency aid to provide immediate food and shelter for the victims of the quake.

The full extent of damage to the agriculture sector has not yet been assessed, although the FAO believes that families probably lost livestock, crops, food stocks and valuable agricultural inputs, in a country where roughly two-thirds of people of Nepal rely on agriculture for their livelihood.

The efforts should focus on longer-term recovery, particularly efforts that allow the Nepalese people to continue to grow food and to preserve current stocks.

One of  the  most immediate problems is that the planting season is around the corner for rice. If farmers are unable to plant their crop in late May and into June, they will  be unable to harvest rice, a principal staple for Nepal,again until late 2016. “There is a critical window of opportunity to help crop producers plant in time to have a rice harvest this year and regain their self-sufficiency,” said Somsak Pipoppinyo, the representative for the Food and Agriculture Organization in Nepal.  Read full report from FAO

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