Ending malnutrition still a huge challenge

Kathmandu, September 9

A report launched by Save the Children today projects that stunting caused due to malnutrition in Nepal cannot be eliminated until 2112 – long after the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to end malnutrition.

Although Nepal is making progress to combat malnutrition, with national level stunting reduced from 57.1 per cent to 37.4 per cent from 2001 to 2014, the progress has not been inclusive.

The report, titled ‘Unequal Portions’, also reveals that malnutrition in Nepal is closely related to poverty and more within socially excluded castes, ethnic, or religious groups.

“Our children face grave issues of losing out on a physically and mentally healthy future due to lack of sufficient and balanced nutrition,” said Delailah Borja, country director at Save the Children in Nepal, during the report launching programme held in the capital today.

She added, “The fight against malnutrition is essential and we hope that social mapping and careful targeting can narrow the equity gap in large scale multi-sectoral nutrition programs, and reach the most vulnerable population.”

In Nepal, stunting is highest among the ethnic groups at 62 per cent, and second highest among hill Dalits at 51 per cent, while stunting is lowest among Tarai Brahmins and Chhetris at 13 per cent.

Similarly, regional inequalities also seem to affect the irreversible effects of malnutrition – stunting is 37 per cent in the eastern region and 50 per cent in the western region.

Geographically, stunting is 42 per cent in rural areas, compared to 27 per cent in urban areas. The research also points out the result of wealth inequalities: children in the poorest households are more than twice as likely to be stunted (56 per cent) as children in the wealthiest households (26 per cent).

The research found that gender inequality cuts across all social groups, with women in the lowest wealth quantile are more likely to be underweight (22 per cent) than women in the highest wealth quantile (12 per cent).

On the basis of the report, Save the Children has recommended that exclusion be addressed through targeted tailored interventions for disadvantaged groups identified by the state as vulnerable due to their social, economic, cultural, political and physical status.

To ensure that every child has equal opportunity to survive and benefit from access to nutrition, healthcare and education regardless of who they are or where they live, Save the Children recently launched a new three-year campaign Every Last Child.

The campaign calls on decision makers at the household, local, national and international levels to ensure barriers that prevent the poorest and most discriminated children from access to life-saving services are eliminated.