Malnutrition is a public health emergency in Nepal. The nutritional status of women and children under five years of age are particularly poor in Nepal. According to Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2011, it is estimated that 41% of children below five years are stunted, 29% are underweight, and 46% are anemic. Similarly, among women, 35 percent anemic and 18 percent are underweight (MoHP, 2011).

Fifteen percent of all households in the country are food insecure (MoHP, 2011). The incidence of malnutrition is higher in rural areas, particularly in the mountains and the terai region (MoHP, 2011). Food insecurity, inadequate access to nutrient rich foods, and inappropriate infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices are important contributors to malnutrition in the country where only 45 percent of mothers initiate breastfeeding within an hour of delivery and 70% exclusively breastfeed their children less than 6 months of age. Additionally, 29% of children 6-23 months consumed diets of a minimum dietary diversity and 24% consumed the minimum acceptable diet in the previous day (MoHP, 2011).

Literacy and social status of mothers are also key factors contributing to malnutrition among women and children in Nepal where the gender inequality ranks 113 of 187 countries (UNDP, 2011) and only 45 percent of women are literate (CBS, 2011). In addition some traditional practices related to food intake seem hazardous, further exasperating the condition of malnutrition among children and women (Shah N., Shrestha S., 2003 and Adhikari R. A., 2010).

Despite the situation, several key nutrition programs have been implemented at scale over the last decade and a half to improve the micronutrient status and health of vulnerable population groups. Several key nutrition programs have been implemented at scale over the last decade and a half to improve the micronutrient status and health of vulnerable population groups.

Since 1993, the National Vitamin A Program has focused on improving the vitamin A status of children 6-59 months through biannual vitamin A supplementation with deworming (limited to children 12-59 months); this program has consistently achieved coverage of 80-90% of targeted children every six months. Universal salt iodization (USI) has reached 80% of households with adequately iodized salt for controlling iodine deficiency disorders and to improve iodine nutrition.

Iron and folic acid supplementation with deworming for pregnant and lactating women has also shown relatively high coverage although adherence needs improvement. Efforts recently have been directed to improve children’s access to zinc in management of diarrhea and to pilot delivery of micronutrient powders (MNPs) integrated with community infant and young child feeding (IYCF) to improve anemia and stunting in children.

 

References:

Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). (2011). National population census 2011. Kathmandu, Nepal: Central Bureau of Statistics.

Population Division, Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), New ERA, MEASURE DHS ICF Macro and U.S. Agency for International Development. (2011). Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2011.

World Health Organization (WHO). (2006). WHO child growth standards: Length/height- for-age, weight-for-length, weight-for-height and body mass index-for-age: Methods and development. Geneva, Switzerland. World Health Organization.