Over 3 million under-fives at risk of death or disease: UNThe United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has warned that more than three million children under the age of five in Nepal are at risk of death or disease
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has warned that more than three million children under the age of five in Nepal are at risk of death or disease during the harsh winter months due to a severe shortage of fuel, food, medicines and vaccines.
The government’s regional medical stores have already run out of BCG vaccines against tuberculosis while stocks of other vaccines and antibiotics are critically low, said the UN body in a statement on Monday.
The imports of essential commodities, including medicines, have been severely restricted at southern border due to protests over the new constitution and undeclared blockade by India.
“Children still recovering from two major earthquakes in April and May could be the worst hit. More than 200,000 families affected by the tremors are still living in temporary shelters, at an altitude above 1,500 metres where weather conditions will be harshest this winter,” read the statement.
“During my recent visit to Nepal, I witnessed first-hand the precarious living conditions of many of the earthquake survivors. They could now be facing a new disaster-without adequate food, protection from the cold or healthcare,” said Anthony Lake, Unicef’s Executive Director, in the statement.
The Unicef also stated that the 125,000 newborns expected in Nepal in the next two months are also at particular risk. Ambulance services across the country have been hit by the fuel shortage, resulting in a drop in births in hospitals and health centres.
“The plight that children and their families are facing in the country has been worsening by the day and will deteriorate further in the winter months,” said Karin Hulshof, Regional Director of Unicef for South Asia.
“Children need to be protected from disease, cold and hunger.” Fears are also growing that the rising dependence on firewood because of the fuel crisis is increasing indoor pollution, which in turn could lead to a spike in cases of pneumonia.
Last year more than 800,000 children under five suffered from the condition in Nepal and around 5,000 died, said the UN body, adding: “Unicef urges all sides to address the restrictions on essential imports of supplies to Nepal. There is no time to lose.”