Food insecurity worsens in Nepal
An estimated 42 out of 75 districts are reported to be food deficient
26 July 2007, Kathmandu – A series of natural disasters in 2006 and 2007 have severely impacted on crop production in Nepal, placing a significant number of people at risk of food insecurity, according to the joint report released this week by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
According to the report, a combination of prolonged drought, hailstorms, and flooding in areas traditionally most agriculturally productive have resulted in an estimated 225 000-metric-tonne food grain shortage for 2006/2007, compared to a food deficit of only 23 000 tonnes last year. An estimated 42 out of 75 districts are reported to be food deficient.
The report is based upon the findings of a joint FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission conducted in March and April of 2007.
“The results of the report largely confirm WFP’s earlier estimates that many people, particularly those living in remote, chronically food insecure areas of Mid- and Far-Western Nepal are suffering the impact of consecutive years of drought and the lingering impacts of the 11-year insurgency,” said Richard Ragan, WFP Representative in Nepal.
“This is particularly troubling during this highly sensitive post-conflict period and WFP will immediately address these concerns by targeting 1.2 million people through a new US$49 million Peace and Recovery Programme and urge donors to support our effort,” Ragan added.
Nepal is a chronically food insecure, food deficit country, prone to natural disasters that can have serious consequences to agricultural production at both the national and local level. The report expresses serious concern over the estimated national undernourishment rate of 42 percent, with undernourishment rates in hill and mountain areas as high as 50 percent. Stunting rates in children are estimated to be as high as 60 percent in the Mid- and Far-Western Regions, and acute malnutrition rates of children at nearly 18 percent in the Terai.
“This is a really critical time,” said Henri Josserand, Chief of the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System. “The process of national reconciliation can only make headway if the whole country shares in improved access to food and markets, lower rates of malnutrition, and a determined risk management strategy for food security.”
The report concludes that “the confluence of high population growth, extremely limited scope of expansion of cultivated areas, under-developed irrigation infrastructures, continued high level of dependence on agriculture for livelihood and almost stagnant productivity of crops has resulted in acute risk of nation-wide food insecurity.”
The UN report warns that continued high levels of food insecurity could destabilize the peace process, and recommends that immediate efforts be put in place to improve household food security and livelihoods.
Recommendations to address Nepal’s food insecurity include a series of short and longer-term projects aimed at improving the availability of irrigation, construction of critical infrastructure, support and strengthening of government agricultural monitoring systems, and immediate food aid for drought and conflict-affected communities.
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