Over three million children under the age of five in Nepal are at the risk of death or disease this winter due to a severe shortage of fuel, food, medicines and vaccines, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
Over the past 10 weeks, vital imports of essential commodities were restricted at Nepal’s southern border due to unrest over the country’s new constitution, Xinhua reported.
The government’s regional medical stores have already run out of vaccines against tuberculosis, while stocks of other vaccines and antibiotics are critically low, Monday’s report said.
UNICEF cautioned that children still recovering from earthquakes in April and May could be the worst hit.
Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his growing concern over the blocking of essential supplies on the Nepal-India border, and called on all sides to lift these restrictions without further delay.
Over 200,000 families affected by the tremors are still living in temporary shelters, at an altitude above 1,500 metres where weather conditions would be harsh in winters.
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 over 800,000 children under five suffered from this condition in Nepal and around 5,000 died, UNICEF said.
The plight that children are facing in the country will deteriorate further in the winters, said UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Karin Hulshof.
“Children need to be protected from disease, cold and hunger. UNICEF urges all sides to address the restrictions on essential imports of supplies to Nepal. There is no time to lose.”