11 - 17 December 2015 #786

Taking its toll


The blockade has a death toll, just like the earthquake did. Medical services have been crippled by the shortage of critical drugs and the inability of patients to get to hospital in time. A nurse at the Paropkar Maternity Hospital in Kathmandu shows an empty chiller for vaccines (above).

WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UKaid KOICA, GIZ and other humanitarian agencies supporting Nepal’s health sector warned this week: ‘The reduced ability to access health services is already affecting the vulnerable, and disruption to immunisation and other programs will have an extremely serious and lasting impact on children.’ UNICEF said last week up to 3 million Nepali children were now at risk.

But there are signs that the blockade imposed by India in support of Madhesi activists at some border points could be lifted soon. Indian leaders are known to have advised Madhesi leaders in New Delhi this week to consider a roadmap from the Kathmandu establishment: amending the constitution to meet demands for proportional representation and constituency delimitation right away, and forming an all-party committee to resolve the proposed demarcation of provinces within three months.

Upon his arrival in Kathmandu late Wednesday night, Upendra Yadav of the MJF said: “We will not call off our agitation.” Analysts say this could be posturing to avoid being accused by radicals within the movement of having sold out.

There is speculation that since tinkering with boundaries of two proposed plains provinces is so fraught, the Madhesi parties will allow their border sit-ins to fizzle out after a few rounds of talks with the NC-UML-Maoist in Kathmandu. India will then have a face-saver to quietly ease the siege.

Om Astha Rai