Blind side

Four out of 10 children in Nepal are underweight due to high prevalence of Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM). Additionally, 49 per cent Nepali children suffer from stunting and wasting is seen in 13 per cent of the cases. But at the current rate of one per cent annual reduction in PEM prevalence among children aged six months-five years, it will take another 100 years to cut down the national prevalence rate to the desired level of 10 per cent. As none of the past programmes to check PEM has proven effective, the Child Health Division (CHD) under the Department of Health Services (DHS) is taking a novel approach this time by mainly focusing on raising people’s awareness about PEM. For this purpose, community-based dietary guidelines are being prepared, added attention is being given to infant and young child feeding, and extensive trainings programmes for health workers and mothers are in the pipeline.

In most rural areas, new mothers are still blithely ignorant of the importance of breast-feeding for infants and nutritious diet for growing children. The fact that intended message is not getting across to the targeted population is a clear indication of huge discrepancies between drawn up plans and their implementation. But there is no time to lose ruminating over past failures. For any realistic hope of meeting the MDG of halving the incidence of PEM by 2015, rapid progress has to be made towards spreading awareness among new mothers, making nutritious diet available at the community level and training health workers to work in rural areas. However, past failures attest that there will be no progress sans political commitment and dedicated leadership.