Monday, 23 May 2011

MALNUTRITION: Nepal: faces crisis as UN scales back

KATHMANDU — The United Nations is to stop distributing food to nearly a million people in remote western Nepal because of funding shortfalls, threatening a major health crisis, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

 Already, around half of all Nepalese children under five suffers from stunting due to malnutrition (AFP/File, Pedro Ugarte)

Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries, with more than half the population living on less than $1.25 a day. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says 41 percent of Nepalese people are estimated to be undernourished.
But the WFP says it does not have enough funds to continue flying supplies by helicopter to western Nepal, where road access is patchy and around a million people rely on UN food aid.
The costly helicopter trips will be axed by the end of this year, after which the WFP will only be able to provide food to around 100,000 people in the area, spokeswoman Christina Hobbs told AFP.
"Globally WFP is going through funding constraints, and the world's attention in terms of assistance is shifting away from Nepal to other areas such as Japan and the Middle East," she said.
"We have been working with the government to try to build their capacity in this area, but the places we are talking about are very remote, and their capacity is limited.
"Malnutrition rates in these areas are around 70 percent, we would expect to see an increase in both child mortality and maternal mortality."
The Nepalese government transports some food to the area for sale at subsidised rates, but most of the supplies go by road, and remote communities are likely to miss out when the WFP scales back.
Already, around half of all Nepalese children under five suffers from stunting due to malnutrition, with long-term implications for their mental development and physical health.
Economic growth has been slow in recent years, due largely to political instability, and many households rely on income from a family member working abroad, mostly in India and the Gulf.

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