2 July 15: A top UN official has warned the world’s largest humanitarian agency may stop the food aid to Nepal’s hundreds of thousands of earthquake affected people should the Nepalese government not recant its allegations against WFP’s relief materials.
John Ging, director of the Operational Division at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, termed media reports about the ‘substandard’ and ‘inedible’ food that the WFP allegedly distributed as ‘nonsense’.
According to Annapurna Post, Mr Ging warned that if the accusations against the food distributed by the UN body are not retracted then the relief materials may be diverted to other crisis-ridden countries like Iraq and Syria.
Calling the accusations made by the local media and members of the constituent assembly as ‘false’, he claimed it was a conspiracy to tarnish the image of the United Nations in front of the Nepalese public.
There has been a spate of media reports that claimed that the food supplied by the WFP was ‘unfit for human consumption’, an allegation the UN body has categorically denied since the problem began to make it to the headlines, both in local and international media.
“It is totally wrong and nonsense to make allegations by the local media here that the WFP had distributed substandard foods to the earthquake affected people,” Indian news agency PTI quoted Mr Ging.
“The food distributed by the WFP were thoroughly checked before distributing them and maintained high standard,” he said at a press conference in Kathmandu. The UN official also visited some of the areas severely affected by the April 25 earthquake.
As for the local media in Nepal, it continues to raise profound concerns about the quality of the food being distributed among the victims of the April 25 disaster which has so far claimed nearly 9000 lives.
Responding to a query from the southasia.com.au, WFP’s Communications Officer Zoie Jones had last month said, “WFP rice has been tested and found to be safe and edible. We tested the rice and so did the government’s Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC). Both tests had the same result: the rice is safe and edible but had a slightly higher percentage (32%) of broken rice than the 25 percent quality standard. This means there were more broken grains and this is below our quality standard. This is a quality issue not a safety issue. We contacted the local supplier and got them to replace the rice.”
According to Annapurna Post, Mr Ging also expressed concern about the slow distribution of relief materials such as tin sheets, specially because the monsoon season was already in progress. Only ten percent of the required tin sheets has been distributed which he said was not enough. Although he appreciated the cooperation of the government at the centre, he found the local governments to be not as cooperative, Post said.
Either there is an ongoing plot to tarnish the image of the United Nations in the eyes of the Nepalese people (as claimed by Mr Ging) or there indeed is a deep-rooted problem in how the WFP accesses, stores and distributes its relief materials in Nepal.
In any case, this continuing imbroglio must come to an end now, because, at the end of the day, the victims of two major earthquakes must not die of hunger just because two sides fought a media war.