Kathmandu, April 3

Nepal must strengthen and implement its new law on right to food if it is to meet its commitments to rid the country of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity, Amnesty International said today.

Hunger was one of the root causes of Nepal’s decade-long internal conflict, and it persists across the country. Nearly half of all the households in Nepal face food insecurity, and a tenth are ‘severely food insecure’. More than a half of all children under five years of age are anaemic, while more than a third of them have stunted growth.

In an important step towards realising its goal of ‘zero hunger’ by 2025, the Nepal government enforced Right to Food and Food Sovereignty Act in September.

However, as per AI’s briefing, Right to Food and Food Sovereignty Act requires amendment to make it effective. Besides, rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of the law, need to be formulated.

“If the government of Nepal wants to ensure that no one goes hungry in the country, it must strengthen the law. The mechanisms, such as the rules and regulations, need to be crafted in

a way that makes the right to food a reality for all,” said Biraj Patnaik, AI South Asia director.

The law needs to be amended to clearly define terms and avoid unnecessary confusion and misinterpretation, which could weaken its effectiveness. As the law stands, it remains unclear what constitutes ‘hunger’ and ‘starvation’.

The Government of Nepal must also take meaningful steps to prohibit public authorities from interfering with people’s efforts to feed themselves. The law, in its current form, provides little protection to the people as stated in the AI briefing.

It also recommends that the law be specific on how the government will address the threat of starvation. There must be inquiries into any deaths resulting from starvation. It calls for marginalised communities, such as Dalits and land-dependent indigenous peoples, including Tharus, to be granted access to cultivable land.

The briefing recommends that specialised food councils be established throughout the country at national, provincial and local levels to monitor the implementation of the act.

“The authorities have an obligation to prevent malnutrition in all its forms. Without addressing these weaknesses of the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty Act and consulting the appropriate stakeholders, Nepal will not be able to rid an estimated two million people of malnutrition in the country,” said Patnaik stressing on the urgency to implement the act.