OCHA Nepal Situation Overview 05 Oct 2006

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 05 Oct 2006
Issue No. 7 / September
Kathmandu, 5 October 2006

Highlights:

Nationwide protests by CPN-Maoist against alleged arm imports by the SPA government

CPN-Maoist resists government's efforts to re-establish police posts

CPN-Maoist tightens its control on the development agencies' operational space

Thousands of Nepalis return home for the annual Dashain holidays

CPN-Maoist opens new offices to facilitate IDP returns

Nepal Red Cross Society, UN, I/NGOs respond to floods in western Nepal

CONTEXT

Politics and major developments

On 13 Sept, the SPA-CPN-Maoist relations hit a low with nationwide protests by the CPN-Maoist against alleged arms imports from India by the SPA government. The protests subsided the same day after the National Monitoring Committee for Ceasefire, the Home Minister, the Nepali Army and India dismissed the allegations.

Following its central committee meeting, the CPN-Maoist announced that the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) would neither be confined to camps nor separated from its arms until there was an agreement with the SPA on outstanding political issues. Three national conventions led by its trade union, ANTUF, its women's organization, ANWA-R, and the student wing ANNISU-R were also organized in the capital during the reporting period. This led to a nationwide and unprecedented rise in CPN-Maoist demands for donations on the business community, NGOs and private individuals.

The confirmation of the Chief of Army Staff, Rupmangat Katuwal, turned controversial with the CPN-Maoist and human rights workers insisting that Mr. Katuwal had directed the suppression of the people's movement in April.

On 23 Sept, an RPP lawmaker Krishna Charan Shrestha was shot dead in the Eastern district of Siraha. The CPN-Maoist breakaway TJMM claimed responsibility for the killing; TJMM declared a ceasefire starting from 23 Sept until 9 Oct to mark the beginning of the Dashain festivals.

On 23 Sept, 24 people including the State Minister for Forest died in Nepal's worst helicopter accident. The helicopter, chartered by World Wildlife Fund, also had on board Finnish Embassy Charge d'Affaires and USAID Deputy Director.

Conflict and Security

Across the country, the CPN-Maoist strongly resisted the government's efforts to reestablish police posts displaced or damaged during the conflict, arguing that the expansion of security installations violates the mutually agreed ceasefire code of conduct.

Abductions, which had not been a noticeable trend since the ceasefire in April, re-emerged during the reporting period.

A high incidence of extortion was reported in Siraha, Saptari, Jhapa, Sankhuwasabha, Bhojpur, Morang, Terhathum, Dhankuta and Udaypur districts. Businessmen and others, who were approached by the CPN-Maoist or its sister organizations for donations, however, reported that the CPNMaoist cadres were engaging in negotiations and resorting to threats only as a last resort.

During the reporting period, CPN-Maoist also continued to exert justice through their own courts. In Kailali district, it ordered six individuals to six months' labor, charging them with murder and incest.

The reporting period also saw CPN-Maoist expanding its support base in the Eastern region, encouraging military and PLA recruitments. Reports from Sunsari, Bhojpur, Solukhumbu and Morang districts in the Eastern region indicated that CPN-Maoist was recruiting new militia. The CPN-Maoist leadership in Morang confirmed the recruitment, adding the militias would be deployed to maintain law and order, and possibly transfer to PLA. CPNMaoist cadres in Sankhuwasabha district were reportedly involved in issuing party membership to the school students.

In Kathmandu, the Hotel Association of Nepal said they would be forced to close down their businesses if CPNMaoist continued to make unrealistic donation demands. It said all hotels have received letters from CPN-Maoist asking anywhere between half a million to two million rupees. CPNMaoist said the donations were voluntary.

A high incidence of public demonstrations and road/highway closures during the reporting period led to a general feeling of lawlessness in urban centers across the country. Protestors emanated from all classes of society ranging from prison inmates in Jhapa district, landless people in Sunsari, students in Saptari, professionals and workers demanding salary increment and improvement in terms of service in Ilam, Sunsari and Jhapa districts, traders protesting municipality license fee hike in Morang district as well as locals protesting over road accident.

Another security threat during the reporting period came from the armed vigilante groups in the Western Terai districts of Kapilvastu, Nawalparasi and Rupandehi. In Nawalparasi, eight parties (including the CPN-Maoist) and human rights workers asked the local administration to confiscate arms from the 'vigilantes' who were armed by the security forces during the royal rule. The Chief District Officer said his office has no records of the arms distribution.

Operational Space

The capacity of development and humanitarian actors to work free of CPN-Maoist interference further eroded during the reporting period. A high incidence of the Basic Operating Guidelines (BOGS) violations continued to be recorded. In the Far West, CPN-Maoist has reportedly directed its district committees to impose tax on imports and exports and to stop the Municipalities, DDCs and the VDCs from carrying out any development work. In the Western region, the party issued a notice to the Community Forest Users Federation in Nawalparasi district to suspend activities of all forest users groups.

In the Eastern region, CPN-Maoist threatened to continue frustrating all development projects implemented by/through the government. Its cadres have asked local residents of Rangeli, Morang district not to pay their electricity bills and frustrated revenue collection in Jhapa, Saptari and Siraha districts. In Terhathum district, they issued a six-point circular to the I/NGOs operating in the district to give 10% of their total budget to the party before starting a project; CPN-Maoist leadership reportedly also stated how the NRs. 1 million of the VDC budget proposed by the SPA government should be used-10% of it should go directly to CPN-Maoist, 20% to community based education and health projects and 70% to road constructions. CPNMaoist has reportedly pre-positioned its cadres to tax the road construction projects. In the Eastern Terai, there is a poor working environment for development agencies based along the Indo-Nepal border due to the strong presence of TJMM in Saptari and Siraha districts; the CDO in Saptari said the security for the staff members of development agencies in the districts was a serious concern.

In response to complaints from NGOs in Udaypur that CPNMaoist was exerting increasing pressure on them to give donations, OCHA held meetings with the CPN-Maoist district leadership to address the concerns.

NATURAL DISASTERS

Floods and landslides

September heavy monsoon rains caused floods and landslides in 26 districts, the most affected being Banke, Bardiya and Achham in the Mid West and Far West. Nearly 50 deaths were reported and thousands were displaced from their water-logged homes for days. After detailed assessments, the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) put the number of disaster-affected population at 84,449 in the three districts. Supported by a number of UN agencies, notably WFP and UNICEF as well as I/NGOs, the Red Cross provided the needy population immediate relief in the form of food and non food.

Immediate health needs were addressed by the DHO supported by WHO, UNFPA, INF and IRC who rapidly dispatched medicines, mobile health clinics to operate in the worst affected areas and surveillance teams. Fortunately, no communicable epidemic outbreaks were reported.

Following a detailed assessment of the needs in the education sector, educational kits are being provided by UNICEF, Save the Children Alliance and Plan while other INGOs are studying the possibility to support the rehabilitation of damaged schools.

The District Administration Office and the NRCS district chapter in Banke and Bardiya estimated that 3,297 houses have been damaged by floods. However, a detailed interagency assessment led on the longer term house rehabilitation needs is under revision.

Drought

On 4 September, at an inter-ministerial meeting with the donor community, the government appealed for food aid to cover an estimated shortage of 350,000 MT of rice as a result of the drought affecting a number of districts in the East and Terai districts. The government also highlighted the need for longer-term mitigation measures such as irrigation facilities, river training, reforestation and an emergency revolving fund for disaster management and seed buffer stock. WFP VAM monitors are currently assessing the food security situation in these areas while a detailed crop status survey is also under preparation in conjunction with the MoA.

In the meantime, the drought food emergency operation led by WFP in the ten most vulnerable and hard to reach districts of the mid-and far west - Bajura, Dailekh, Jajarkot Kalikot, Rolpa, Rukum, Dolpa, Humla, Jumla and Mugu districts continues. During the reporting period UNICEF presented the findings of a rapid assessment done in Jumla where 14% wasting, 82% stunting and 77% underweight was found among children. In Bajura, UNICEF carried out a rapid nutrition assessment in two clusters (also in August), which put wasting at 21%1, stunting at 73% and underweight at 81%. UNICEF has already commissioned a district wide assessment of Bajura and based on preliminary findings; assert that the outlook for the entire district will be similar to that of the findings of these two clusters.

Population Movement

During the reporting period, thousands of Nepalis returned home from India for Dashain; CPN-Maoist continued to encourage IDP returns right across the country with promises to return properties confiscated during the conflict and facilitating the returns through its newly established offices aimed at working with the returnees.

In Udaypur district in the East CPN-Maoist announced that it would return the property of four of the 30 families whose land had been confiscated by the party; CPN-Maoist informed OCHA that 15 families have returned to their villages from the district headquarters since the April ceasefire. CPN-Maoist also announced that it was willing to return land belonging to the IDPs in Saptari and Siraha districts. In Sankhuwasabha district, a joint follow-up meeting between UNHCR, SPA representatives, CPN-Maoist and the CDO agreed to support the IDP returns, with CPN undertaking to provide security to the returnees.

In Ilam, the party opened its office to facilitate the process of IDP returns; there were two applications from the displaced people by 22 Sept. A returnee reported that the local cadres of CPN-Maoist had banned her to harvest cardamom from her own field. Following the assassination of a lawmaker in Siraha district on 23 Sept, the people of hill origin went on a high alert in the southern VDCs of the Terai district; some fled to urban centers for safety. Also, CPN-Maoist opened the contact office for displaced persons in the district headquarters to facilitate the IDP returns.

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