Report blames UN agency and contractors for diarrhoea toll

KATHMANDU: A preliminary report of the government panel has put the blame on the UN agency and contractors supplying low quality food to the mid and far-western region for the diarrhoeal outbreak that has claimed the lives of 320 people in the last three months.

The report, which will go official next week, has held contractors supplying food to the region as responsible for the loss of so many lives.

Laboratory test of a sample of food supplied to the mid and far-west has revealed that a low quality food was supplied to the locals, Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya, spokesperson at the Ministry of Local Development (MoLD) told The Himalayan Times today.

The study team had collected the samples from the region of the diarrhoeal outbreak and tested the quality of such food and pulses at the Food Technology and Quality Control unit, he said.

“Low quality rice distributed by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) was not the only reason behind the outbreak of diarrhoea. The contractors supplying food to those districts are equally responsible as they cheated the innocent people,” he added.

The report has also pointed out that the lives of so many innocent people could have been saved had there been 'coordination' and 'accountability' on the stakeholders' part.

More than 320 people died of diarrhoea in those districts during last three months. A majority of the victims were poor and marginalized class, including the Dalit and Janajati.

"During the field visit we found that the transparency and coordination among the concerned bodies was lacking," Thapaliya said.

Though the text of the report was not available, Thapaliya said the contractors were extracting out profit from the food they supplied and earned a handsome commission while supplying less and cheaper to the locals considering them as gullible.

“The contractors have cheated the people who are totally ignorant about the quality of the food that they are consuming,” he said.

Talking with The Himalayan Times, Thapaliya said that there lacked coordination among the stakeholders distributing food materials. He also revealed that the distribution of food material was also increasing the dependency syndrome that was discouraging agricultural activities.

Also, pointed out in the preliminary report was that there was no presence of health personnel at the time of the disease outbreak.

Contaminated water and lack of personal hygiene has also been cited in the report as some of the factors responsible for the outbreak of the diarrhoeal pandemic.

Three different teams were dispatched to different diarrhoea-hit districts - Surkhet, Dailekh, Jajarkot, Nepalgunj, Salyan and Achham - to study the causes behind diarrhoeal outbreak.

Dinesh Thapaliya, spokesperson of MoLD, Dr Mukunda Sharma, joint secretary of Ministry of Health and Population and Nirmal Shiwakoti, undersecretary at the Ministry of Finance were among the study team.