© WFP/Samir Jung Thapa
Nepal ratified its new constitution in 2015 in a peace process that restructured the country as a federal democratic republic following a decade-long conflict that ended in 2006. This process created a stable government for the first time in 25 years and an enabling environment to make much needed progress toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The 2018 Right to Food Act enshrines food as a fundamental right of every citizen, a powerful step toward meeting Nepal’s commitments to rid the country of malnutrition, hunger and food insecurity. However, the Zero Hunger Strategic Review (ZHSR) conducted in 2017-18 found that the country still suffers from severe food insecurity and malnutrition.
Nepal is among the world’s poorest countries, ranking 148th out of 189, with a Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.574 in 2019. Challenging geography, civil unrest and a lack of infrastructure complicate efforts to improve livelihoods, establish functioning markets and transport food. One quarter of Nepal’s population live below the national poverty line, on less than US$0.50 per day. Approximately 36 percent of Nepali children under 5 are stunted, while 27 percent are underweight, and 10 percent suffer from wasting due to acute malnutrition. Furthermore, food preferences have shifted from healthier and more nutritious traditional foods toward processed alternatives, compounding these problems. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are also widespread, and 48 percent of pregnant women are anaemic. Malnutrition slows economic growth and feeds a cycle of poverty due to low productivity, poor cognitive function and increased health costs. The impacts of climate change are further expected to result in more frequent and intense disasters that threaten to undermine the country’s progress to date. Located in one of the most seismically active zones in the world, Nepal is also subject to forceful earthquakes. The 2015 earthquakes wiped out 25% of that year’s GDP, refocusing attention on this ever-present threat.
At this critical juncture in Nepal’s development trajectory, the World Food Programme (WFP) is strengthening government capacity and providing support to food security, nutrition, as well as emergency preparedness and response, in support of the country’s goals to achieve the Zero Hunger and to graduate from least developed country to a lower middle-income status by 2023. WFP has been working in the country since 1963, supporting the Government to develop greater food security among vulnerable communities and build resilience to disasters. WFP’s work in Nepal primarily targets the most food insecure, those in the hard-to-reach districts of the Mid- and Far-Western Hills and Mountains.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Nepal
Food and nutrition during emergencies
WFP supports the Government of Nepal’s emergency response efforts during disasters and other shocks to ensure that those affected have immediate access to adequate food and nutrition. In addition, WFP provides recovery support through food and cash assistance to vulnerable communities as they build assets and restore livelihoods in the aftermath of disasters.
WFP supports government efforts to prevent and manage malnutrition by providing nutritious school meals to children in chronically food-insecure areas and health packages to children under 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding women and girls. WFP is also working closely with the government to integrate the School Meals Programme into the national social protection framework and make a fortified harvest available to both schools and the broader population.
Risk reduction and capacity development
WFP provides technical assistance on national food security monitoring and analysis at federal and provincial level to ensure delivery of efficient and equitable assistance during crises. WFP strengthens government emergency response capacity through establishing critical logistics infrastructure, capacity building of first responders and flood early warning systems. WFP produces regular reports on household food security, food prices and agriculture in Nepal, providing early warning of emergencies.
Sustainable food systems for climate vulnerable and food-insecure communities:
WFP helps food-insecure communities to benefit from critical infrastructure that improves their access to basic services. WFP also supports climate vulnerable communities, particularly farmers in the central Terai districts, in preparing for, withstanding and better recovering from shocks. This includes developing climate-resilient community infrastructure, improving food processing and storage to overcome lean-season shortages, enhancing agricultural productivity and preparedness for climate shocks, and setting up early-warning systems.
Policy coherence on food, security and nutrition:
WFP enhances food security and nutrition policy coordination at the federal, provincial and local levels of government, strengthening capacity to deliver on the goal of Zero Hunger. WFP works with local governments to strengthen food security governance and promote the crucial link between evidence and policy. WFP also engages UN agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to how international actors are supporting food security policy coordination in Nepal.