December 19: Nepal’s progress towards reducing malnutrition faces setback due to multidimensional poverty, vulnerability to shocks including the economic slowdown from COVID-19 and weak infrastructure, states a report prepared by the National Planning Commission (NPC).
According to a study conducted by the NPC, 32 per cent children in Nepal are chronically malnourished while seventeen percent of Nepalese women are overweight or obese.
The report unveiled last week points out to the prevalence of stunting among the poorest households in more than double that of the richest quintile.
According to the report, micronutrient deficiency or ‘hidden hunger’ is caused by inadequate diversity and limited essential nutrients in diets. The report also noted that the production and consumption of staple food is currently higher than that of fresh nutritious food.
The finding of the Fill the Nutrient Gap Analysis initiated by the NPC in 2020 show that the lowest cost nutritious diet is, at the national average, 348 per five-person household per day. The report further states that nutritious diet is more than twice as expensive as a diet that meets only the requirement of energy diets.
The study supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) used a food system approach to better understand the barriers to consuming national diets including how economic barriers prevent households from affording healthy foods.
The study highlights the need of a role from all sectors in improving the status of nutrition in Nepal.
“To improve access to diets, Nepal must focus on food system transformation. Investment in nutrition-sensitive agriculture, staple food fortification and better infrastructure can improve accessibility to healthy foods for all,” the report states.
Unveiling the report on Friday, NPC member Dr Dil Bahadur Gurung underlined the need of credible data to rightly intervene in the malnutrition issues and reportedly said this type of analysis would help come up with right policies and programmes against malnutrition and implement them effectively in the future.
WFP country director and representative Robert Kasca recommended the implementation of social security programmes, livelihood support programmes and school mid-day programmes targeting the households facing economic barriers to afford nutritious food to address the their nutritional requirements.