In Nepal, the nutritional status of mothers and children under five is extremely poor.
For children, anthropometric deficits vary with ecological zone, in that stunting and underweight are more prevalent in the Mountains and Hills and wasting in the Terai. Over the last 20 years, no improvement has been observed in the nutritional status of children. At present, almost half the children are stunted and 11% are wasted.
Nepalese women are highly affected by malnutrition especially in non-mountainous regions. In Nepal, food shortages due to seasonality contribute to malnutrition. Through maternal anthropometric status, seasonality affects birth weight, and seasonality continues to affect growth throughout childhood. Poor growth rates during the "hungry season" increase the deficits compared to international reference data.
FAO estimates that the proportion of the population who were undernourished in terms of food inadequacy was about 29% in 1990-92 compared to 45% in 1969-71.
The low consumption of fruit and fresh vegetables, which is highly dependent on local seasonal availability, contributes to nutritional disorders such as deficiencies in iron and vitamin A. Nutritional disorders including iodine deficiency are more prevalent in isolated and inaccessible hill and mountain districts in which local food availability is synonymous with local production. Unfortunately, since no recent nation-wide food consumption surveys are available, information on the adequacy of present food consumption cannot be given. However, the available data indicate that in 1970 the daily per caput energy requirements were not satisfied, while in 1985, the situation seemed to have improved and the requirements were covered. Food consumption is just one of the multiple factors which interact and have an impact on the nutritional status of the overall population. Other important influences include morbidity, poor coverage of health infrastructures and socio-economic factors.
In the last 30 years, although the basic health services have expanded in Nepal, coverage still remains limited. The Infant Mortality Rate, which is an important index of health and nutritional status of a community is high by international standards: 118 for 1,000 births. A large number of infectious diseases such as respiratory and intestinal infections and malaria remain among the main causes of morbidity and mortality in Nepal especially in the most populated regions.