Border blockade leaves Nepal short on fuel, blood bags | News | DW | 08.12.2015
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Border blockade leaves Nepal short on fuel, blood bags

As a fuel shortage keeps donors away from blood banks, the Nepal Red Cross Society reports that, if a border standoff is not resolved within 30 days, the emergency blood supply for patients could be severely reduced.

The ongoing blockade at the border between India and Nepal is severely hampering blood supply to patients in the Himalayan nation - and it could run out completely if no solution is found to the political standoff within the next 30 days, the deputy head of the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) told DW on Tuesday.

Nepal, which adopted a new constitution in September following years of political instability, has yet again slipped into unrest, with ethnic Madhesis in the south mounting a blockade at the entry points from India and stopping fuel, medicine and other vital supplies.

"We don't have proper supply of blood bags," NRCS deputy chairman Ajit Sharma said, adding that the existing stock could last 30 days at most. "We are trying to bring blood bags from different countries using airplanes to supply blood. But that is not sufficient - not even for the capital, Kathmandu."

The sterilized plastic packets are used to store blood for transfusions. Nepal depends on India for 100 percent of its supply of these crucial packets. Over the past few weeks, it has sourced them from China but the supply has fallen way short of demand.

The situation is further hampered by a shortage of fuel as a result of the border blockade. The acute shortage of petrol and diesel, which are imported from India, is preventing prospective donors from driving to blood banks to help replenish the insufficient stocks.

A board reading 'no petrol'

The situation is worsened by acute fuel shortage.

"Due to the transport problem, fuel problem, we are not being able to collect blood for the recipient," Sharma said, "and even the donors who are interested, they are busy standing in fuel supply lines on petrol pumps."

NRCS has the monopoly of blood supply in Nepal and has a network of more than 100 blood transfusion centers around the landlocked country, which has a population of about 30 million.

Grim situation

Since September, the Madhesis have protested the new constitution, which they say discriminates against them and would leave them politically marginalized with insufficient representation in local and national governments.

Nepali politicians have accused India of orchestrating the political unrest that has led to the blockade at key border points. India, Nepal's largest trade partner and source of foreign investment, refutes these charges.

"Why would we create any blockade for a country we share good relations with?" Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a statement on Monday, adding that more than 11,000 trucks laden with goods and supplies remain stranded on the border.

The NRCS's Sharma said people in Nepal's border areas were adopting desperate measures to meet their requirements for blood, often taking their chances with "substandard nontested" samples.

The blockade has also limited ambulance services at many hospitals, restricting the movement of emergency workers. A shortage of medicine is not helping either.

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