GORKHA, June 18: Yet another instance of rotten rice being distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) to the earthquake-affected has occured at Laprak in Gorkha districtat a time when criticism against the UN agency for the poor quality of the rice distributed has arisen from every quarter.
Twenty-five sacks of rice meant for distribution to quake victims were found rotting away in Laprak VDC. The rotting rice was among two tractors-full of the grain that was brought to Laprak VDC last Monday. Distribution of the rice to the affected locals was scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
"Some sacks of rice were found to be rotten, and the distribution was then stopped," said Marsing Gurung, a local. Only rice that was edible was distributed to the locals, according to him.
However, the locals, fearing a halt to the supply of additional rice, have felt hesitant to speak out against the distribution of substandard rice.
Another local said on condition of anonymity, " The agency, unlike the government, has at least kept up its distribution."
The villagers cannot say anything concerning the distribution of low quality rice unless their leaders signal to them to do so.
The agency claims that delay in transportation of the rice to remote areas along with rainfall en route have resulted in the rice becoming decayed.
However, the rice was delivered to the Laprak area just three days ago and there was no heavy rainfall that could have affected the rice during transportation. The rotten rice is reportedly very old.
WFP has been supplying the food item in other remote villages of Gorkha constituency no. 3 from its stores at Deurali VDC.
After the rice delivered to the area two days ago was found to be substandard, locals have been taking their rice allotments only after tearing open the sacks to check if the grain is edible.
The irony is that the District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC) hardly monitors the distribution of relief materials and the quality of the materials distributed. The INGOs directly airlift or transport the relief materials to the affected areas.
Asked about the substandard rice, Chief District Officer (CDO) Udhhav Timilsina,who is also head of the DDRC, told Republica that he will investigate the matter.
"There may be rotten rice distributed to the locals. We've already warned them not to eat such rice. If the case pertains to Laprak, I will find out about it," said CDO Timilsina.
In the wake of these developments, the local relief distribution committee has started inspecting the rice before it is distributed.
Nepal Red Cross Society district chapter in Gorkha and Save the Children are involved in distributing the rice delivered by WFP in the district.
Meanwhile, district-based officials of WFP declined to comment on the issue, stating that they are not authorized to do so.
On Thursday, a team of WFP officials came to Gorkha to carry out a study.
Photos: Shree Bahadur Gurung