Various shortcomings had been found in the relief materials provided by various organizations and countries for the families of the earthquake victims in Nepal. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has come into sharp controversy for supplying food items that included rotten rice, lentils and edible oil. Media reports brought to light this disturbing fact, including TV footage of the rotten products. Inspections, including by a parliamentary committee, of the warehouse concerned and of the foodstuffs already distributed to the quake-hit families had confirmed reports of substandard and inedible WFP items. Now, after quite a while, John Ging, director of coordination and response division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), in a press conference held in the capital on Wednesday, tried to paint an opposite picture. He claimed that the media reported ‘nonsense’ as if all the media had ganged up on WFP. His defence of the WFP, the food aid arm of the UN, was not surprising in that it was ultimately his own defence, as well as an attempt to shield his own organization and its officials.
The top UN officials should order an inquiry into the matter of rotten food to see if anything
undesirable was involved
Sample tests conducted by the government’s Department of Food Technology and Quality Control had confirmed that some rice and pulses distributed by the WFP in Kavre and Gorkha districts were sub-standard and unfit for human consumption. His claim that some rice and pulses purchased locally were found to be damaged and have been replaced or being replaced. But WFP’s pulses imported from Turkey were also found to be sub-standard. Anyway, that does not go to add to his claim that inedible food had not been distributed. Last week PM Sushil Koirala complained to UN under-secretary general Gyan Chandra Acharya about the poor quality of food distributed by WFP. During his meetings with Nepali leaders, Ging shared his findings about the condition of the victims and what needed to be done to improve it. But that is quite different from his poor defence of some of the poor products supplied to the quake victims by WFP.
Ging said that the UN and WFP had accorded top priority to Nepal despite equally bleak situations in other crisis zones like Yemen, Iraq and Syria. Indeed, the demand for humanitarian aid from around the world far outstrips the UN’s capacity to meet. But threatening to take the aid elsewhere was yet another way of covering up his organization’s faults. The most honourable thing for him and his organization would have been to admit lapses and move to right the wrong, and if anybody had been deliberately involved in this despicable act, to bring them to book. It would have done credit to the reputation of UN and WFP. Keeping the rotten food in the warehouse was in itself something that would put WFP and its officials on the defensive. If WFP cannot distribute standard food in Nepal, it must not commit the same despicable act in even the worst crisis zones. The government should be firm on this point and not be cowed by such a threat. The top UN officials should order an inquiry into the matter of rotten food to see if anything undesirable, such as corruption, was involved, and bring the guilty to book.
Medical and nursing students of the Janaki Medical College (JMC) numbering around 400 resorted to staging a protest program in a prohibited area near Singha Durbar Wednesday. The medical college has not been holding classes for the past 10 months putting the students in a quandary. The blame is put on management issues. The Institute of Medicine (MoE) is adamant about not providing recognition to the degree provided by this college. Largely, responsible for this state of affairs is the negligence being shown so far by the college administration. So far, the government has not intervened in this debacle. The students have been demanding that the classes be held. Besides, the administration of the college has not been paying the salaries of its administrative staff for 15 months.
Considering that the future of students of KMC is at stake, it appears that the government and other concerned stakeholders should intervene as things have already gone out of hand. Previously, this college did not hold classes in 2013 also and the Nepal Medical Council and IoM had to intervene.
A version of this article appears in print on July 03, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.