47 per cent of Nepalis chronically hungry, says WFP

Lalitpur, May 16:

Breaking the cycle of hunger and poverty in Nepal and meeting the goal of halving the number of chronically under-nourished by 2015 seems an elusive task, said Jean Pierre de Margerie, representative of the World Food Programme Nepal (WFPN), at a press meet organised in Lalitpur today.

Margerie said 12 million Nepalis — about 47 per cent of the population of the country — are chronically hungry.

The meet was organised to brief the media on ‘Fight Hunger: Walk the World’ — a walkathon to raise awareness on hunger and collect fund for the programme.

In a report, the WFPN said Nepal’s stagnant economy, lack of employment opportunities, weak governance, insufficient infrastructure and the Maoist insurgency have ensured that a significant number of Nepalis remain trapped in a cycle of hunger and poverty from which there appears to be little relief.

One child dies every five seconds, Margerie said. “The walkathon is being organised to raise awareness on education and hunger and collect funds that would help in providing food security to the deprived.”

“The objective of halving the under-nourished by 2015 seems very difficult in context of Nepal.”

Over 200,000 people participated in the Walk the World (WTW) programme in 2005 raising enough funds to feed 70,000 children for a year, he said, adding that this year the WTW aims to raise $5 million for WFP’s global school feeding programme.

At present, the WFP’s global school feeding programme is being run in 16 food-deficit districts of mid-western and far western regions of Nepal. The expected number of beneficiaries of the programme is 292,000 in 2700 schools.

Leela Raj Upadhaya, programme officer, said the WFP supports about 100 million people worldwide. In Nepal, about 50,00,000 children studying in primary schools are benefiting from the programme. Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, Upadhaya said adding that the programme has not only ensured food for the hungry children but has also encouraged them to attend school.

Walk the World event is being organised on May 21 in Kathmandu under the banner “Fight Hunger: Walk the World” and would begin at Dashrath stadium at 8:00 am.

Meanwhile, Mark Squirrel, a staffer at the WFP, is on his way to climb Everest. The climb is being taken as a unique opportunity to raise awareness in the region about child hunger while raising money for WFP programmes.

Haribansha Acharya and Madan Krishna Shrestha have been appointed goodwill ambassadors for the programme.