Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The government of Nepal is threatening strict sanctions on organizations that continue to distribute rotten food to the victims of the earthquake on 25 April. These would include the World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations agency that fights hunger.
This was decided by the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers (Opmcm), which met yesterday to decide the measures to be taken against those organizations that distribute sub-standard food and drink.
Shantaraj Subedi, secretary of the government, will meet today with the concerned agencies demand immediate tests on samples of food and beverages. If foodstuffs intended for survivors of the earthquake are found to be inedible, organizations risk severe sanctions.
The story originated a few weeks ago, when the Department of Food Technology and the Department for quality control carried out checks on food aid to earthquake victims and found numerous irregularities. Following those checks Kathmandu ordered departments to submit a report within three days of product samples distributed in the districts of Gorkha and Dhading from various humanitarian organizations, including WFP.
According to the report, the Parliamentary Commission for the management and control of disasters found 514 tons of expired yellow peas in a warehouse of the World Food Program in the town of Nepalgunj [district of west-central Barke - ed]. Sanjay Gautam, coordinator of the Commission, told AsiaNews that the discovery was made in one of three WFP deposits in the country. "We are carrying out investigations to understand how rotten peas ended up in the warehouse," he continues.
Iolanda Jaquemet, WFP communications officer in Kathmandu, says, however, that the international agency had conducted analysis of those samples and had found low levels of quality, so decided to send the goods back to the supplier.
The woman says: "The World Food Program had ordered 1,000 tons of yellow peas for earthquake victims. When the shipment arrived in Nepalgunj, the regional expert in food technology came to Bangkok to carry out the inspections. She found that the samples did not meet the agencies standards".
Meanwhile, the WFP reports having bought another 1000 tons of yellow peas from a Nepalese supplier, which are about to be distributed to the victims. This is just the latest scandal to hit the UN agency. Recently it was accused of distributing rotten rice to earthquake survivors. Some have complained that the rice distributed was not edible, since it had become black and was piled in decomposed heaps. Several people have felt unwell after having eaten it and the Gorkha district has decided to return the sacks of humanitarian aid it had received to the agency.