No real progress for Nepal unless under-nutrition is tackled, says report
Kathmandu, 4 March 2010: The Nepal Nutrition Report Card, launched at a high level meeting in Kathmandu today, has found that every second Nepali child is malnourished.
Highlighting the magnitude of malnutrition in the country, the report was launched by the Department of Health Services and attended by government agencies and major external donor partners. The meeting was organised to discuss the central role of nutrition in development and the urgent need to scale up efforts to address child and maternal under nutrition and realise the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The report "Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition in Nepal" notes that while commendable progress has been made in addressing micronutrient deficiencies, not enough has been done to tackle general malnutrition given the scale of the problem.
Nepal has made slow, but steady, progress in cutting poverty in the past decade. However, unless radical efforts are taken, pervasive child and maternal under-nutrition threatens to derail Nepal’s development progress. Approximately 1.7 million children, or nearly half of all children aged under-five in the country are stunted or suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Yashovardhan Pradhan, Director General of Department of Health Services said, "The fact that one in every two children is suffering from chronic malnutrition has severe consequences for the intellectual capacity of the country. Nepal will always be deprived of its full potential if this is not addressed. This is a very serious concern for all.”
The UNICEF Global Report tracking progress on child and maternal nutrition, which was also launched at the meeting, highlighted that for children aged under-five, the period of greatest vulnerability to nutritional deficiencies is very early in life: from the womb and continuing until the child is two years old. This period is also when the brain develops significantly. If a child is undernourished during this critical window of opportunity, the intellectual damage done is irreversible.
Recognising the magnitude of the problem and centrality of nutrition to the country’s development, the Government of Nepal, with support from development partners, recently conducted an assessment and gap analysis of the nutrition sector, which showed that under-nutrition was more profound and broader than just a health issue. There is a need to strengthen the institutional framework and capacity; increase resource allocation to scale up and sustain proven nutrition interventions; and there is need to stress multi-sectoral actions to tackle the underlying causes of under-nutrition. It was also highlighted that nutrition will receive strong prominence in the upcoming national health sector plan.
The meeting highlighted the importance of adequate food security in tackling malnutrition. Persistent high food prices, the financial crisis, coupled with recurrent droughts in many parts of the country, have worsened food insecurity with wider implications for nutritional security in the country.
In her address to the meeting, the UNICEF Representative, Ms. Gillian Mellsop pointed out that Nepal, as a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child “has a moral and legal obligation to protect children.” The meeting concluded with the participants pledging to 'act now' to protect children from the ill effects of under-nutrition.
For further information:
Pragya Mathema, Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Nepal: Mob. 98510 38822; Off. 552 200 ext 1121 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Brittain, Chief of Communication UNICEF Nepal: Mob. 98510 545139; Off 552 200 ext 1182 Email: email@example.com
Rajkumar Pokharel, Chief, Nutrition Section, Child Health Division: Off. 422 5558 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org