Children in northern Darchula deprived of mid-day mealScores of students have been left without the government-provided mid-day meal as landslides and floods disrupt food supply from the district headquarters.
Since mid-June, students of Basantapur Secondary School in Byas Rural Municipality’s ward 6 have been deprived of the mid-day meals provided at the school.
Daulat Singh Khati, the school principal, says while some students carry their own lunch to school, a majority of the students stay hungry.
“Although 73 students from Nursery to grade 5 have been provided regular lunch, since mid-June the provision has not reached the school,” said Khati.
The 144km Tinkar-Darchula road that connects Byas and Duhun rural municipalities to Khalanga, the district headquarters, has remained closed since mid-June following road obstructions by landslides and floods. Certain sections of the road have been completely swept away by landslides while some sections have been washed away by the floods in the Lakhu river.
The road closure has affected the mid-day meal programme in the community schools since the food supplies have not been transported to the villages from Khalanga.
According to Ekendra Bahadur Bam, coordinator at the education development and coordination unit, Darchula, the contractor transported food supplies for the midday meal programme to Khalanga, the district headquarters, at the end of mid-July. “But we couldn’t send the supplies to schools in Byas and Duhun rural municipalities because the Darchula-Tinkar road section has been obstructed since June,” said Bam.
Around 2,700 students of Nursery to grade 5 in 43 community schools in Byas and Duhun rural municipalities have not been receiving their mid-day meals for more than three months now.
The government introduced the mid-day meal programme with the aim to ensure that hunger does not keep students away from school. The federal government provides funds through the local units to manage nutritious food for children in community schools in a bid to control malnutrition in the province. According to the guidelines, community schools prepare nutritious food for children based on the menu prepared by the Centre for Education and Human Resource Development. The menu lists 60 different items.
The community school midday meal programme is being run in 42 of the 77 districts in the country. While the government manages the programme in 33 districts, the World Food Programme funds the meal in select schools of nine districts, including Darchula.
The World Food Programme selects the contractor who transports the supplies to the local distribution centre.
“The contractor has been transporting supplies for the midday meal programme to the distribution centre in Sunsera of Byas Rural Municipality and Dhari distribution centre of Duhun Rural Municipality,” said Bam. “The contractor has assured us of supplies as soon as the road section is repaired.”
The obstruction of the Tinkar-Darchula road has not only affected the midday programme but also made the life of the locals difficult since they are heavily reliant on supplies from Khalanga to meet their daily needs. Since the only road connecting the northern Darchula villages to Khalanga is obstructed, the local residents have been cut off from the rest of the district.
“Food stocks are running out in the villages,” said Padam Badal of Duhun-2. “We can’t even cross the river since there is no bridge over Lakhu. It’s become very difficult for us to seek medical treatment in case of emergencies.”
Narendra Bahadur Badal, chairman of Duhun Rural Municipality, said efforts are being made to clear the road with the help of heavy machinery but the weather has been unfavourable for the effort.