The food security situation is most serious in the hills and mountains of the mid- and far-western regions. Rural communities in these areas face three problems: 1) poor agricultural production leading to food insecurity; 2) lack of basic infrastructure—extremely poor road conditions and few bridges, health posts and schools in many remote villages; and 3) changing climatic patterns that are having a discernible impact on the livelihoods of rural communities.
Malnutrition rates in Nepal are among the highest in the world. Forty-one percent of children under five are stunted, 29 percent are underweight and 11 percent are wasted. The prevalence of stunting in the hills and mountains of the mid- and far-western regions is extreme, with rates above 60 percent. Micronutrient deficiencies are also widespread; in particular, 46 percent of children 6-59 months, 35 percent of women of reproductive age and 48 percent of pregnant women are anaemic. According to the World Bank, GDP lost due to malnutrition can be as high as 2-3 percent. Malnutrition slows economic growth and perpetuates poverty through direct losses in productivity from poor physical status, and indirect losses from poor cognitive function, and increased health costs.
There have been remarkable improvements in Nepal’s education sector. The enrolment rate of children in grades 1 through 8 stands at 87 percent. Overall, the gender gap in public schools is closing: for every 100 boys attending public schools there are 99 girls. Nepal’s Ministry of Education has translated the global ‘Education for All’ initiative into a School Sector Reform Plan which constitutes the basis for all education-related programmes in the country. Nonetheless, challenges persist. Enrolment rates are lower in the hills and mountains. School enrolment rates of Dalits and other disadvantaged ethnic groups in these areas are well below the national average: The majority of schools in Nepal do not meet the minimum conditions set by the Government. Improved teacher training and recruitment of female teachers and teachers from minority groups is needed to guarantee quality education. This is an investment in human capital which can result in an inter-generational process to stop the hunger cycle in Nepal.
WFP’s work in Nepal primarily targets the most food insecure and hard to reach districts of the Mid- and Far-Western Hills and Mountains. These areas of Nepal experience both the greatest need for assistance and the greatest gap in government and NGO partner support on the ground.
In 2013, WFP starts a new five-year Country Programme through actively supporting the Government of Nepal in tackling food insecurity, focusing on social safety nets in the areas of nutrition, education and rural livelihoods support. If sufficient funding is resourced, about 410 000 people can benefit from the programme. The interventions concentrate on the most vulnerable populations in the mid- and far-west hills and mountain regions where the most food-insecure people live. Social protection is the overarching theme of this new programme, which consists of four distinct components: 1) Mother-and-Child Health and Nutrition, 2) School Meals, 3) Productive Assets and Livelihoods Support, and 4) Capacity Development of WFP's partners. In addition to this, WFP is providing humanitarian assistance to 40 000 refugees from Bhutan living in refugee camps in Nepal - all of whom are entirely dependent on external assistance to meet their daily needs.