More than 50,000 children to be deprived of fortified flour in KarnaliThe province’s Health Directorate says the tender to procure the nutrient-enriched flour was cancelled after the product’s samples were found to be substandard.
Thousands of malnourished children, lactating mothers and pregnant women from five districts of the Karnali Province will have to wait for months for fortified flour to reach their homes, as the tender to procure the flour has been cancelled and the budget allocated for the programme frozen with the end of the last fiscal year.
Provincial Health Directorate of the Karnali Province said that the tender to procure the nutrient-enriched flour was cancelled after samples of the flour were found to be substandard in the laboratory examination.
“We terminated the contract after the supplier [Nutri Food Pvt Ltd ] told us that they could not supply quality flour immediately,” Rita Bhandari, director at the Provincial Health Directorate of the Karnali Province, told the Post over the phone. “And with the end of the fiscal year, the money allocated to procure nutrient flour is also now frozen.”
The directorate had awarded a tender of Rs 350 million to procure the fortified flour in the last fiscal year. Samples of the flour were collected through an arbitrary sampling method by the World Food Programme and tested at a World Health Organization certified laboratory in India, which found that vitamin A was not added in the flour and iron was added in excessive amount.
As per an agreement with the federal government, the World Food Programme had collected samples of the flour and tested it at the WHO certified laboratory to ensure its quality.
It will take at least four to five months for a new supplier to provide the required fortified flour and for the new budget to be allocated and released, which means the people in these five districts, already deprived of nutrition, will have to survive until then without the nutrient-rich flour.
There are 52,688 children under two years of age, 10,927 lactating mothers and 15,355 pregnant women of five districts—Dolpa, Mugu, Humla Jumla and Kalikot district of Karnali Province, where fortified flour distribution programme is launched.
Malnutrition is a silent crisis in Nepal, and is more prevalent in the western hill districts. As part of a super flour distribution programme launched in 2014, the state provides three kg flour—fortified with all necessary micronutrients—to pregnant women, new mothers and children aged six to 24 months every month to address chronic malnutrition problems in the region.
“We are serious about the nutrition problems that plague our region,” Chet Nidhi Wagle, senior public health administrator at the directorate, told the Post over the phone. “We are working to start the procurement process for the fortified flour and supply at the earliest.”
Earlier, the Logistics Management Division under the Department of Health Services used to procure the fortified flour and supply it in the district. But with the implementation of the three tiers of the government, federal, provincial and local levels, the Ministry of Health and Population had allocated the budget to procure flour to the provincial government.
The provincial government could not procure the flour on time and at the end of the last fiscal year, it sought the help of Health Ministry for the procurement. The division assisted the provincial government agency for the procurement and finalised the contract. But samples were found to be substandard at the time of supply.