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Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in Nepal. (126272)

DFID, like other international donors, monitors the humanitarian situation in Nepal primarily through the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). UNOCHA provides leadership to and co-ordination of the international humanitarian community, and works with DFID and other international bodies to monitor and respond to emerging and ongoing humanitarian crises. In 2006-07 DFID provided £700,000 to support humanitarian monitoring and co-ordination, and the provision of food aid in response to drought.

Food security problems, particularly related to drought, are severely affecting more than 900,000 people. Health indicators remain at a critical level, with acute malnutrition among children under five having increased to 12 per cent. over the last five years. Protection remains a central issue, including for children directly affected by the conflict. Significant numbers of those displaced during the conflict have been returning—either spontaneously, or with facilitation, though many internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees continue to face protection concerns. 107,000 Bhutanese refugees remain dependent on international aid. In addition to the humanitarian challenges exacerbated by the conflict, Nepal’s mountainous terrain means that it continues to be vulnerable to natural disasters including landslides, floods, and earthquakes.

The UN has just launched a Common Appeal for Transition Support which provides a framework for a co-ordinated international response to these issues. The appeal focuses on issues of particular importance in the short term, including food security, health, displacement, disaster preparedness, and protection. DFID is currently examining the appeal document to assess which elements it might support, and will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation jointly with UNOCHA and other partners.