The ongoing blockade of Nepal’s border with India, which has now stretched for months and created shortages of essential goods like fuel, food and medicines, may soon put millions of infants at risk of disease or even death.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that the lack of essential medicines and vaccines, as well as the onset of winter as Nepal continues to recover from last year’s devastating earthquake, will adversely affect over three million children under the age of five.
The blockade is being enforced by the Himalayan nation’s Madhesi minority, who say the country’s recently enacted constitution discriminates against them. The Madhesi have strong ethnic ties to India, and Nepal’s government accuses Indian border officials of actively supporting the blockade, a claim New Delhi has denied.
Trade with India accounts for 60% of Nepal’s medicines and a large proportion of fuel and essential goods. Shortages are seriously affecting the country.
“The risks of hypothermia and malnutrition, and the shortfall in life-saving medicines and vaccines, could be a potentially deadly combination for children this winter,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said. “They could now be facing a new disaster – without adequate food, protection from the cold, or healthcare.”