February 3, 2012
While progress in the control of micronutrient deficiency in Nepal has been highly encouraging, the rate of reduction in general malnutrition has remained very slow. According to Demographic Health Survey of 2011, 41% of Nepali children under 5 are suffering from chronic malnutrition (stunting). There has been a significant reduction in stunting in last decade, with the rate dropping from 51% in 2001 to 41% in 2011.
The prevalence of stunting in Nepal is not equitable either. During 2001 to 2006 stunting was reduced by 65% in wealthiest quintiles, but at the same time it increased by 12% among the poorest. Ecologically, stunting (chronic malnutrition) is more prevalent in the mountains. About 53% of the children in the mountains are stunted whereas the national average is 41%. Similarly the 2011 DHS preliminary report shows that wasting (acute malnutrition) is more prevalent in Terai (11.2% vs national average 10.9%).
With the current slow rate of reduction, it is unlikely that Nepal will meet the MDG target on nutrition, which stipulates a reduction of stunting levels to 30%, unless more resources are allocated and new nutrition specific and multisectoral nutrition sensitive initiatives are introduced. As a response, Nepal has already shown its commitment in Scaling up Nutrition to become an “Early Riser”, as one of the 18 countries in the world and among the three countries in Asia together with Bangladesh and Laos.
In Nepal, the push to reduce stunting has become a multisectoral issue and has moved beyond the traditional health sector to encompass many other many ministries too. The National Multisectoral Nutrition Plan for improving maternal and child nutrition and reducing chronic malnutrition, has been prepared by five key government sectors, under the lead of the National Planning Commissionin collaboration with its partners and support from UNICEF. This Plan offers a package of activities/interventions,which over a period of 10 years, should contribute to a reduction in more than 20% of current prevalence rates of chronic malnutrition. The plan aside from its focus on addressing the problem of chronic malnutrition and measures for its prevention, also considers the factors that limit the capacity of government institutions to implement it. It includes actions to enhance intersectoral collaboration and coordination, strengthening multi-sectoral monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress, financial and human resources as well as identifying gaps and future needs to ensure the commitment and capacity to implement it in a sustainable manner.