Alarming Malnutrition Rates In Northwestern Nepal

The rates of severe malnutrition are higher than in Darfur

The northwest of Nepal has been affected by drought for more than six months. This has led to a crisis among people living in isolated areas of the region. A one-month assessment in the region by teams from Action Against Hunger (also known as Action contre la Faim or ACF) found that more than 85% of the population has used up all its stores of food. In addition, severe malnutrition rates among children younger than five years of age are higher than in Darfur. Action Against Hunger is mobilizing in response to this alarming situation and calls for action by the international community.

An Already Fragile Population

Nearly 40% of Nepal's population lives on less than US$1 per day, and health indicators are worrying in terms of child and maternal mortality, chronic malnutrition, and anemia. An estimated 60% of households are not self-sufficient, especially in mountainous areas, while agricultural production only meets food requirements for three-to-eight months per year. In rural areas controlled by Maoists, the conflict that re-started in 1993 affects civilian populations that are forced to comply with the orders of different actors (taxation, forced recruitment, imprisonment, restricted movement) or to flee. The Nepalese government has not been present in the area for the past three years.

The Worst Drought Ever, According To Local People

In addition to chronic food insecurity and the consequences of political conflict, the current drought threatens the population: 57% of farmers have not been able to harvest and the rest have collected only one-quarter to one-half of their usual harvest.

The Results of Action Against Hunger's Assessment Are Alarming:

  • Less than 15% of the population has any food left
  • Some 38% of the population already suffers from anemia (if more than 20% of a population suffers from anemia, the international community considers it a national public health problem)
  • Three out of five children examined are suffering from chronic malnutrition
  • Three out of 100 children suffer from the most fatal form of malnutrition. These very high malnutrition rates are higher than those in current humanitarian crises such as Darfur. However, little attention has been paid to the sparsely populated and isolated regions in northwestern Nepal.

Action Against Hunger's Emergency Intervention

The next harvest is not expected until September, and in view of the alarming situation, an emergency response is required. Action Against Hunger teams are setting up nutrition centers to treat malnutrition. A distribution of seeds for the next agricultural season is planned. However, the political instability of the past few weeks has seriously affected the implementation of programs due to such obstacles as restricted movement and supply difficulties. Action Against Hunger calls on the international community to take action to support populations suffering from the crisis.