Nepal has a population of over 27 million, 16 per cent of whom live in urban areas and 45 per cent of whom are under 18 years old. The country’s geography ranges from the southern lowlands 100 metres above sea level to the high mountains rising over 8,000 metres. The particular geography and limited communications have resulted in people living in relatively isolated communities preserving their own languages and culture, but more recently these divisions have become less distinct. Natural disasters such as floods, landslides and earthquakes occur frequently. Nepal ranks 136 out of 177 countries on the Human Development Index.
Following 10 years of conflict which ended in 2006, the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord on 21 November 2006 marked a new phase in Nepal’s social, political and economic development. The ten years of conflict worsened the situation for many vulnerable people – child labour and trafficking increased, for example, while birth registration rates fell. Many of the social disparities among castes and ethnicities that helped spark the conflict remain today and women continue to face discrimination and chronic economic insecurity.
The first half of the year 2009 has seen a lot of stress to Nepal’s peace process. Following the resignation of the Prime Minister of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) over disagreements with other political parties on security sector reform and on the people’s supremacy over the Nepal army, a new coalition government comprising of 22 political parties led by United Marxist Leninist (UML) has been formed. The current political uncertainty has cast a shadow over the fragile peace process launched in 2006.
Millennium Development Goals: Despite the conflict, many indicators have been improving. Nepal’s Millennium Development Goals progress report (2005) estimates that the country is likely to reach by 2015 the targets for reducing poverty, child mortality, tuberculosis, and increasing access to improved drinking water, but is unlikely to do so for universal primary education or halting HIV and AIDS. The goals for hunger, gender equality, and maternal health would require additional and very substantial efforts.
Humanitarian Situation: The country continues to face humanitarian concerns fuelled by factors such as residual impact of major floods in 2008 in the eastern region with some families still needing humanitarian assistance. In addition, the prolonged winter droughts with little or no rainfall and high food prices have caused deterioration in food security and the nutritional status of children especially in remote districts in the Mid and Far Western regions. Persistent strikes and road blocks in the Terai-Madhesh region have further disrupted provision of services to most vulnerable communities.
• Kathmandu (Country Office)
UNICEF in Action
The overall goal of the 2008-2010 country programme is the realization of the rights of all children and women through support to the interlinked objectives of peace, reconciliation and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The current country programme has the following components:
The Decentralized Action for Children and Women (DACAW) approach is UNICEF’s primary vehicle for directing a range of interventions to rural communities across Nepal. The Ministry of Local Development is the lead implementing agency, along with other ministries, focusing on the most disadvantaged communities in 23 out of the 75 districts in Nepal. DACAW uses four strategies to bring about changes in the lives of children and women: i) Strengthening the capacity of individuals and communities, especially women, to demand change through the Community Action Process (CAP), ii) Strengthening the capacity and accountability of local service providers, including government agencies, to respond to demands, iii) Strengthening the capacity and accountability of local governance, including civil society, to plan, implement and monitor programmes in favour of children and women, iv) Strengthening policies to support decentralisation in favour of children and women.
The Child Protection programme aims to strengthen the capacity of the Government and civil society to protect children against violence, exploitation and abuse, and seeks to support the building of protective systems covering all types of child rights violations. The programme supports 3 projects: 1) Child Protection Systems project has initiated and continues to support community based child protection systems; 2) The Children Affected by Armed Conflict project supports the return and reintegration into society of children associated with armed forces and armed groups in a post-conflict environment; 3) Legislation and Policies for Child Protection creates and supports social protection programmes through legislation and policies.
The Education programme aims to improve access to quality learning opportunities for all children, and enable girls and disadvantaged children to complete a basic education cycle and graduate to lower secondary level. The programme supports 4 projects: 1) Early Childhood Development targets the most marginalised communities and supports day care centres within the community; 2) Formal Primary Education; 3) Non-formal primary education and 4) Peace education and emergency education.
The Health and Nutrition programme aims to improve access to quality health interventions and improved services for maternal, newborn and children’s health. The programme supports 4 projects: 1) Child survival project seeks to reduce child mortality through a new born health package; 2) Maternal Health project strengthens quality services at family and community levels to reduce maternal mortality; 3) Nutrition project supports Vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets to children, iron supplements to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and support and promote iodised salt to prevent disease related to iodine deficiency. 4) Support Ministry of Health with technical assistance to provide free health services for poor and disadvantaged communities.
The HIV and AIDS programme aims to reduce new HIV infections among young people and to provide access to preventive services for AIDS treatment, care and support for children, pregnant women and adolescents. The programme supports 4 projects 1) Prevention of mother to child transmission; 2) Paediatric HIV and AIDS treatment; 3) Adolescent HIV and AIDS prevention and 4) Protection and care for children affected by HIV and AIDS.
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme aims to increase access to sustainable and safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, and improved hygiene practices in schools and communities, thus contributing to a reduction of related diseases. The programme supports 3 projects 1) Quality water supply; 2) Environmental sanitation and hygiene and 3) National and district level sector support to build the capacity of government agencies to better respond to community needs for improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene.
The Social Policy programme supports the government in the development of policies, legislation and budgets that advance women’s and children’s rights, especially among the most marginalized groups. The programme includes 3 projects: 1) Assist National Planning Commission and relevant ministries with the development of child-centred policies, including a national framework on children’s participation; 2) Raising awareness among policy makers, the media and general public, about existing and emerging issues affecting children and women in Nepal; 3) Monitoring and evaluation analyses the situation of children and women, especially the poorest and most marginalised groups through research and evaluation.
Emergency response: A standing level of preparedness to assist an initial 100,000 people is maintained by UNICEF, including stockpiles of essential drugs, nutrition supplies, water and sanitation supplies, education materials and non-food supplies in strategic provincial hubs. Any emergency response is carried out in coordination with the government and the eight humanitarian clusters.
UNICEF in Emergencies
The severe flooding of 2008 caused massive displacement and hardship. The global food insecurity problems have reached deep into the remote areas with already bad nutritional indicators being made worse. In early August 2009, a diarrhoea epidemic (and some cases of cholera) in the Mid and Far Western Regions of Nepal claimed about 282 lives. Out of 19 districts affected, Jajarkot and Rukum are the two districts hardest hit by the epidemic. As of 10 August 2009, nearly 52,000 people had received medical treatment in 130 health camps in the 19 districts as a result.
The monsoon rains started to pick up at various parts of the country in August. However as of 31 August 2009, no major floods on the scale of 2008 have been reported. Contingency Plans developed this year with district partners in six districts prone to floods are expected to be operational for better management of the flood situation in those districts. UNICEF continues to monitor the situation through its field–based staff in the districts.
For more information, please contact
Rupa Joshi, UNICEF Nepal,