Stunting among children sound alarm for govt

An estimated 50 per cent of Nepali children under the age of five are stunted- too short for their size- revealed a report launched by Department of Health Service (DHS) today.

The report states that approximately 1.7 million children, nearly half the children under five years of age in the country are stunted. Stunting is a sign of chronic deprivation of good nutrition to the children, it said.

The report ‘Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition in Nepal- 2010’ has unveiled that every second Nepali children is malnourished. Highlighting the magnitude of malnutrition in the country, it said, “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 undernutrition threatens to derail the country’s development progress”, the report has warned.

Unveiling the report, Dr Yashovardan Pradhan, Director General of DHS said, “The fact that one in every two children is suffering from chronic malnutrition has severe consequences on their intellectual capacity, which in turn will be detrimental for the country’s well-being.

“Nepal will always be deprived of its full potential if this isn’t addressed. This is a very serious concern for all,” he admonished.

On the occasion, the UNICEF Global report — tracking progress on child and maternal nutrition — was also launched at the meeting. The report highlights that children under five are most vulnerable to nutritional. It said that the malnutrition occurs right from the womb. “If a child is undernourished during this critical window of opportunity, the intellectual damage done is irreversible,” warned the report.

Recognising the magnitude of the problem and centrality of nutrition to the country’s development, the government with the support from external development partners, had recently conducted an assessment and gap analysis of the nutrition sector showing that under-nutrition was much more profound and broader than just a health issue.

“The nutrition will receive strong prominence in the upcoming national health sector plan”, said DR Pradhan.

The meeting also highlighted the importance of adequate food security in tackling malnutrition. Persistent high food price, the financial crisis coupled with recurrent droughts in many parts of the country, have worsened food insecurity with wider implications for nutrition security in Nepal. The meeting concluded with the participants pledging to ‘act now’

so as to protect children from malnutrition. A donor representative said, “Children constitute 50 per cent of Nepal’s population and 100 per cent of Nepal future.” The report launching ceremony was attended by government agencies and major external donor partners.