An unequal platter

  • Authorities have fallen woefully short on commitments to end undernourishment.

Apr 15, 2019-

Food security is an important development and political issue across the world, but far more so for a country like Nepal, where the level of hunger is still worrying. The population of undernourished people stood at 8.1 percent, according to the 2015-16 Global Hunger Index Report. The country experienced rapid improvements in reducing hunger and is nearing the ‘moderate’ category, largely due to declines in undernourishment, child stunting, and child mortality. Nonetheless, there are deep inequalities within the country when it comes to food and alleviating hunger, and the Karnali Province has constantly been facing the brunt of the problem. The authorities’ efforts to solve this problem have hardly been inspiring.

Pregnant women, lactating mothers and children aged 6-24 months in five districts in Karnali and in Solukhumbu district in Province 1 have been deprived of nutritious food for the last two months due to the inability of the local governments to buy fortified flour on time.

As part of a super flour distribution programme launched in 2014, the state provides 3 kg of flour—fortified with all necessary micronutrients—to pregnant women, new mothers and children aged 6-24 months every month to address chronic malnutrition problems in the regions.

According to the Global Food Security Index 2018, Nepal is the 79th most food insecure country in the world. Children and women in parts of the country suffer from stunting and malnourishment. A study further reveals that 60 percent of children under five years of age in Karnali are stunted, which is an indicator of chronic undernutrition. What’s more, with Karnali having 40 percent food insecurity, it is also the poorest and most food insecure region in the country. Despite the alarming situation, the federal and provincial governments, it seems, have fallen woefully short on commitments to end undernourishment.

The government had allocated Rs30 million to buy fortified flour to distribute to the needy people of the region. But this time around, the programme seems to have slipped as the province failed to procure it on time. Distributing nutritious food as a public health measure is a political imperative which cannot be compromised on. Granted, the transition to federalism has not been an easy one, and different offices and government agencies are still figuring out their modus operandi. But this is not an excuse to not expedite the process and work in an efficient manner so that service delivery does not get affected. Also, instead of adopting stop-gap measures like the flour distribution programme, the government should be thinking of more sustainable policies to address the crisis of malnourishment.

Published: 15-04-2019 07:44

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