United Nations agencies and their aid partners today expressed their “deepest concern” over critical and growing shortages of lifesaving medicines and supplies across Nepal and appealed to all sides to ease an effective blockade of the country’s southern border due to unrest over a new constitution.
“The health and humanitarian implications of the present scenario are grave,” said a joint statement by the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and their development partners from Germany, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea.
Weeks of unrest over the country’s new constitution have severely restricted vital supplies at Nepal’s southern border, prompting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to call on all sides to lift these restrictions without further delay and UNICEF to warn that more than three million children under the age of 5 are at risk of death or disease during the harsh winter months in Nepal.
“In recognition of the right to timely access to quality health care services, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and as detailed in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 14 on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, we emphasize the seriousness of the present situation and its humanitarian implications,” today’s statement said.
The agencies warned that the reduced ability to access quality health care services and treatment is already affecting the most vulnerable, including pregnant and postpartum women, older persons, children, earthquake-affected communities and persons with acute conditions.
They also said disruptions to public health programs, including routine immunization, will have an “extremely serious and lasting impact on the health of children.” “Should the situation be prolonged, the effects will be exacerbated,” the statement said.
The agencies said they will form a working group to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Population “to jointly explore all options for the provision of immediate assistance and support.”
“We urge all sides to address restrictions on the import and free movement of essential supplies including vaccines, drugs and other medical goods as a means of respecting and facilitating the human right to access quality health care services,” the statement said.