Friday, August 18, 2017

Humanitarian Country Team – the UN's relief coordinating entity at the national level – activated in wake of Nepal floods

The following story was published on the United Nations News Centre ( It has been reproduced here given the importance of the issue. Photographs and other material bear their original and respective copyright and restrictions. No part of this article shall be attributed to this website, please credit United Nations News Centre or other institutions, mentioned in the original work, as appropriate.

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UN humanitarian team activated in Nepal in wake of severe floods and landslides

People displaced by the floods take temporary refuge along a road in southern Nepal. Photo: UNICEF Nepal/2017/NShrestha
UNITED NATIONS 15 August 2017 – The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) has been activated in Nepal to support response efforts in the aftermath of severe floods that have hit the nation, the office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the country has said.
According to a humanitarian update issued by the office, as of 11:00 AM local time, 14 August, at least 66 people – including children – have been killed, 35 are missing, and many have been displaced following large-scale flooding and landslides in the wake of the worst rains to strike Nepal in 15 years.
“The full extent of the disaster is not yet known [as] many affected areas remain inaccessible due to damaged roads and bridges,” read the update.
It also noted that rapid assessments are being conducted in the impacted districts and that initial reports show that power and Internet connectivity has been disrupted in some areas and transport infrastructure has been damaged. A major airport located in Biratnagar city (in the south of the country) has been completely inundated.
There is also growing concern for water-borne diseases and health facilities in at least two districts (Mahottari and Banke) have been completely flooded.
“Anecdotal information from the field indicates that a significant number of pregnant and lactating mothers, disabled and other vulnerable groups are affected,” the update added.
The disaster comes at a time when the landlocked Asian nation was struggling to recover from the 2015 earthquakes. Some five of the 27 affected districts are also earthquake-affected, while four of them were hit by floods a year prior, the update mentioned.
The UN Resident Coordinator's office also noted that the impact of the current floods could be exacerbated by pre-existing social and economic disparities, with some of the affected districts having the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) scores in the country.
“Experience from the 2014 floods that affected Banke, Bardiya, Dang and Surkhet [districts] indicates that in [areas] where malnutrition is already a concern, the onset of such an emergency can have a sudden and severe impact on malnutrition rates,” added the humanitarian note.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Global funding fall in support for education having worst impact in poorest countries

The following story was published on the United Nations News Centre ( It has been reproduced here given the severity of the issue. Photographs and other material bear their original and respective copyright and restrictions. No part of this article shall be attributed to this website, please credit United Nations News Centre or other institutions, mentioned in the original work, as appropriate.

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Falling aid for education putting global goals at risk, warns UN agency

Children at Bahadoub 2 school in Timbuktu, Mali. © UNICEF/PFPG2013P-0035/Harandane Dicko; via UN News Centre
UNITED NATIONS 6 June 2017 – Against the backdrop of aid allocations to education falling for the sixth year in a row, the United Nations agency mandated with promoting education globally has called on the donor community to focus more attention on the vital sector, especially in countries where needs are the greatest.

According to a policy paper by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Global Education Monitoring Report, total aid to education stands at $12 billion – 4 per cent lower than the figure in 2010.

“Aid remains far short of what is needed to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4, putting our commitments at risk,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, in a news release announcing the findings.

“[Resources] need to be multiplied by at least six to achieve our common education goals and must go to countries most in need,” she cautioned, calling on donors not to shift their attention away from the poorest countries.

Based on newly released data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee, the study revealed that aid to basic education, such as support to pre-primary and primary education, as well as adult education and literacy programmes – stands at $5.2 billion, 6 per cent lower than the amount in 2010.

It also noted that, while humanitarian aid to education reached a “historic high” – increasing almost 55 per cent from 2015 to 2016 – education received only 2.7 per cent of total aid available and less than half (48 per cent) of the amount needed.

In terms of national contributions, the United States and the United Kingdom were the two largest donors to basic education, but their allocations fell by 11 per cent and 9 per cent respectively in 2014-2015.

In contrast, contributions from Norway and Germany increased by 50 per cent and 34 per cent respectively, noted the UN agency.

A chart depicting the fall in the share of aid to basic education to low income countries
Fall in the share of aid to basic education to low income countries. Source: UNESCO Policy Paper; via UN News Centre
The UNESCO policy paper, Aid to Education is Stagnating and Not Going to Countries Most in Need also voiced concern over skewed allocations by donors leading to aid not reaching places it is most needed.

Sub-Saharan Africa, home to over half of the world's out-of-school children currently receives less than half the aid to basic education it used to in 2002, and only 26 per cent of the total aid to basic education globally.

This contrasts to the 22 per cent allocation to the northern Africa and western Asia region, where 9 per cent of children are out of school.

Calling for urgent action to rectify the problems, UNESCO urged donors to “reverse the move away from education” and focus their attention on campaigns such as the Global Partnership for Education Replenishment campaign which is seeking to raise $3.1 billion between 2018-2020 and programmes such as the Education Cannot Wait fund (established in 2016) that aims to raise $3.85 billion by 2020, with the potential to transform the delivery of education in emergencies.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Restaurant review : Dhaulagiri Kitchen (Nepali, Tibetan)

Dhaulagiri Kitchen Overall rating: 10/10
Cuisine: Nepali, Tibetan

Perhaps the best Nepali food restaurant outside of Nepal.

Would we visit again ? ABSOLUTELY YES.

Dhaulagiri Kitchen is synonymous to consistently good, wholesome, tasty food prepared with the Nepali touch.

What to order? Chicken Momo; and Daal-Bhaat set (includes Rice; jhane-ko Daal - kind of flambeed, using clarified butter and spices; seasonal vegetable curry; seasonal stir-fried vegetable; Saag; choice of meat curry; Gundruk; Achaar; Chutney; Papad)

The Daal-Bhaat is all you can eat. Just keep asking for refills (except meat).
Also, the Nepali Daal-Bhaat has been scientifically proven to be the most well-balanced-diet dish. It includes vitamins, animal and non-animal protein, carbohydrates, fats and roughage in the proper amounts for a full working day.

Food: 10/10
The food in Dhaulagiri Kitchen comes as close to having a traditional Nepali meal at the corner Thakali restaurant. In addition to its signature Daal-Bhaat set, the impressive lineup of Nepali dishes at Dhaulagiri Kitchen includes Sukuti (dried meat), Chhoyola (broiled meat with spices), Seukuwa (barbequed meat), Samya Baji, Thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup), Momo (dumplings done the proper, Nepali way), Chowmein and an assortment of appetizers.

This Nepali restaurant in Manhattan (so far the only one I've found) also serves a mean Dhedo and Wai-Wai sandheko.

Drinks: 5/10
Standard drinks menu.
Must try the Nepali Chia (cooked milk tea)

Ambiance and service: 5/10
The service is prompt and the staff are very knowledgeable about the dishes on offer. Do take their advice if you are new to Nepali food and Nepali spices.
Dishes however can take a few minutes longer during extremely busy times and with complex orders.

Value for money: 10/10  •  $
Nepali eating style generally consists of two main meals - lunch (in the morning, around 8, before heading for work) and dinner (evening, around 7) with essentially a Daal-Bhaat set eaten both times. This food, especially in the morning is meant to fill one up for all the work to do in the day (and then some). Just for this simple philosophy, this place ranks as high as it can go in the value for money.
Any Nepali or anyone who has had Nepali food in Nepal will understand how this place works.
A meal for two costs about $25.

Other: 7/10
Neighbourhood and Getting there: Dhaulagiri Kitchen is located at 124 Lexington Ave, Manhattan (in the Murray Hill neighbourhood).
The 4 and 6 trains are a block away (at 28th and Park) and M101, M102 and M103 ply along Lexington, stopping a block away. One can also take the downtown M15 (or M15 SBS), get off at 28th and walk two blocks west. Another alternative is to take the M23 cross-town, get off at 23rd and Lexington and walk 5 blocks up.
Kid-friendly: Restaurant is children friendly.
Table availability: During busy times, advisable to call ahead and book a table for large groups.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Restaurant review : Anjappar (South Indian, Tamil)

Anjappar Overall rating: 7/10
Cuisine: Chettinad (South Indian, Tamil) also called Chettinadu

On our fist visit to Anjappar, the place DID NOT disappoint. The flavours are spot on and the dishes are authentic.

Would we visit again ? YES.

However, despite a high rating I do not think we will be a regular because the food, by virtue of its authenticity and doing justice to its origins, is too spicy for our palette.

What to order? Chettinad Thali (opt for the meat one). The dish includes: Chapati, Rice, Sambar, Rasam, Kootu, Poriyal, Meat or Veg Curry, Curd, Pickle & Papadum
Food: 8/10
All in all, the food ranks very highly
The spices, true to Chettinad cuisine, are rich, potent and freshly prepared. One can taste the freshness right in the first bite.
On offer are both authentic Chettinad dishes as well as other staple Indian dishes such as Tandoori.
The menu has proper descriptions of the dishes and the spicy scales are honest.
Portions for the main course are more than sufficient – go with an appetite, it will be satiated.

Drinks: 5/10
While the food part excels, the drinks are lackluster in comparison.
It has the regular varieties lassi and the place serves wine as well as juices and carbonated beverages. But I would have liked to seen a bit more ingenuity and variety here, particularly as the South Indian and particularly Tamil cuisine has some interesting beverages to offer.

Ambiance and service: 6/10
The service is prompt and the courses are evenly spread out over the meal. The staff is well versed in the type of cooking and can be relied to make great suggestions – especially important if you can't handle spicy food – listen to them and ask them questions.
A great plus is that the place is located in a neighbourhood full of Indian/Pakistani/Nepali restaurants.

Value for money: 6/10  •  $$
The place is value for money.
Two mains, two drinks (non alcoholic), a starter and gratuity account for about $60.
I would have liked to seen a dessert and an Indian Masala Chai/South Indian Coffee included as part of the Thali meal, even it it meant adding a couple of dollars to the rate.

Other: 7/10
Neighbourhood and Getting there: Anjappar is located at 116 Lexington Ave, Manhattan.
It is in the Murray Hill neighbourhood. The 4 and 6 trains are a block away (at 28th and Park) and M101, M102 and M103 ply along Lexington, stopping half a block away. One can also take the downtown M15 (or M15 SBS), get off at 28th and walk two blocks west.
Kid-friendly: Restaurant is children friendly.
Table availability: One can walk in and expect a table (for 2); for larger groups advisable to call ahead.
Gratuity: 15% gratuity included for parties of 4 or less; 18% for those larger than 4.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The perpetual 'Benny's [REDACTED VERSION]

I had written this piece sometime ago when I had Jack on my side, the good kind of 'shrooms on my plate and the omnipresent chillum in my hand...

Obviously I wrote more than I was supposed to and hence the redaction...

I remember one conversation [...] we are like the Bhishma Pitamahs of Mahabaharat.

Devavrata, son of Shantanu and Ganga, became Bhishma when he undertook the most hardest of oaths that no matter what, he will serve the Kingdom and King of Hastinapur, no matter who sat on the throne. He had vowed that no matter whatever the King did, Devavrata would offer his most sincere and earnest service to his actions. And to ensure that no personal ambitions or greed come in the way, he undertook the oath of celibacy. 

His vow also included that he will not die without ensuring that throne and the kingdom of Hastinapur would remain protected for all time.

By making these promises, Devavrata became Bhishma and such a vow became the Bhishma Pratigya.

I knew the story of Mahabaharat, I knew Bhishma and I knew his Pratigya.

[...] had to bear the albatross, even though he had not arrowed the metaphorical bird through the heart.

It was an inherent, determined and devotional cause that, I think, made [...] bear.

[...] did wonders [...] helped many [...]

[...] why is the title of this post "The perpetual 'Benny's" -- well that's for a different day.