A senior United Nations official has slammed Nepali media for its reporting on sub-standard food provided by the World Food Program (WFP) to earthquake victims. Nepali media has been running a series of stories on sub-standard food provided by WFP through its national partners to earthquake victims in Kavrepalanchowk and Gorkha districts.
Addressing a press conference before wrapping up his visit to Nepal on Wednesday, Director of Coordination and Response Division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) John Ging said he was disappointed to see ‘nonsense’ reports in the media about WFP. “I am surprised and disappointed to see the nonsense reports in the media about an organization that has delivered food to over two million people in this country,” he said.
Director Ging vent his ire against Nepali media for what he said was not reporting the facts honestly. “There is no problem with criticizing an organization if they are doing something wrong. But there is a big problem criticizing an organization if they are not doing anything wrong and in fact are doing good. So, there is a big disconnect between what I am reading in press reports and what the reality on the ground is,” he said while arguing that the food that WFP was providing through its national partners was of absolutely good quality.
Ging also asked Nepali media to be thankful that WFP gave high priority to Nepal at a time when many other countries, like Syria, Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq, are equally in urgent and desperate need of food supplies. “I am very pleased that WFP gave top priority to Nepal at a time when there are so many demands around the world. Let’s be respectful of the WFP,” he further said.
Ging warned that WFP may pull its assistance out of Nepal if such criticisms against WFP continued further. “The WFP does not have all the money it needs to feed all the people in all the countries where it is working. And yet it gave top priority to Nepal. And now we find in the press all these reports about problems with food supply. There is no problem. WFP did not supply to any person in this country any substandard food. That is the main factor,” he added.
Recently, a parliamentary panel, after a visit to WFP’s warehouse in Nepalgunj, publicized its finding that the yellow split pulse stored there and the food distributed in the Laprak area in Gorkha district were sub-standard.
Ging said that the sub-standard food items were in fact separated for returning to the supplier that supplied to WFP and that those food items were not meant to be distributed to earthquake victims. “When they receive food from the suppliers, they check to make sure that it is up to the required standard. Remember, this is huge value food for over two million people. It’s a massive amount. They check it and if it is not up to the standard they put it to one side in the warehouse and send it back. That’s what they did in this case,” he clarified.
Ging, who was flanked by UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Jamie McGoldrick, reiterated that what WFP distributed through its partners was good food. “… they are very careful that they meet that international standard. They came here many, many years ago to help people in Nepal. So I am surprised and disappointed. But I am looking forward to seeing correct reporting of the facts of this case,” he said while adding that he raised the issue of media reporting during all his meetings in Kathmandu.
Director Ging arrived in Nepal to meet with the affected communities, the officials of the government and local bodies, representatives from local and international NGOs and the financial and technical partner community. Besides travelling to Sindhupalchowk to assess the progress of the ongoing humanitarian response, he also held meetings with Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam and Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi.
On the occasion, Ging also said that the local customs administration was creating bureaucratic hassles in the import of corrugated zinc sheets meant to be provided to earthquake victims for immediate shelter in Sindhupalchowk and other affected districts. Arguing that it is against international practice to levy tax on donations, he also asked the government to exempt tax on humanitarian aid.