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Volume 447: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2006

There is no general food-related humanitarian crisis in Nepal, but the World Food Programme has recently launched an emergency programme in 10 of the country’s 75 districts after poor winter rains led to local food shortages. The conflict has, however, created a human rights crisis, with abuses being committed by both security forces and the Maoists, and it has forced thousands of people to leave their homes. The recent ceasefire should lead to an improvement.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. The new civilian Government in Nepal certainly provide cause for optimism. What progress has been made in negotiating an end to the civil war? And what support is my hon. Friend providing in order to bring about stability, development and, most importantly, peace?

As my hon. Friend knows, there has been considerable progress following the handing back of political power to the parties in April. A ceasefire has been agreed between the Government and the Maoists. Negotiation teams have been appointed and a number of confidence-building measures have been implemented, including the release of prisoners, the lifting of curfews and greater ease of movement around the country. Now we need effective monitoring of the ceasefire and agreement on the timing and conditions for the Maoists to join the Government and on the arrangements for a constituent assembly. The UK is currently looking at how we can provide technical assistance, support for the elections to a constituent assembly and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes.

One of the groups most affected by the recent tragedies in Nepal are the street children of Kathmandu. In commending the good work of two charities, the Child Welfare Scheme and Asha Nepal, may I ask what plans the Minister has to target aid at that needy group in Kathmandu?

I, too, praise those organisations. On Asha Nepal in particular, I have asked officials to re-examine the question of funding. In light of the changed circumstances in Nepal, we are reviewing what more we might do. We had to cut back the programme, because, as the hon. Gentleman knows only too well, Nepal was a difficult place in which to work. If the progress is maintained, the Under-Secretary of State for International Development and I will consider what more we can do to tackle poverty in Nepal.