New mothers, children of Karnali deprived of fortified flour

  • 60 percent of children under five in the region are stunted, which is an indicator of chronic undernutrition
- ARJUN POUDEL, Kathmandu

Apr 13, 2019-

Pregnant women, lactating mothers and children aged 6-24 months in five districts in Karnali and Solukhumbu have been deprived of nutritious food for the last two months due to the inability of the governments of Karnali Province and Province 1 to buy fortified flour on time.

As part of a super flour distribution programme launched in 2014, the state provides three kg flour--fortified with all necessary micronutrients--to pregnant women, new mothers and children aged six-24 months every month to address chronic malnutrition problems in the region.

“Dozens of pregnant women, new mothers and parents of small children visit health facilities for fortified flour,” Katak Bahadur Mahat, acting head of the District Public Health Office of Kalikot district, told the Post. The programme has been running for the last three years.

Malnutrition is a silent crisis in Nepal, and is more prevalent in the western hill districts. According to the Nepal Demographic Health Survey-2016, 36 percent of children under five years of age suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting or low height-for-weight) and 10 percent suffer from acute malnutrition (wasting or low weight-for-height). Another 27 percent children are underweight and one percent are overweight.

Doctors say malnutrition during pregnancy increases the risk of complications and maternal and neonatal deaths as well as likelihood of low birth weight. It is a major impediment to growth as it can affect human capital and economic productivity.

A study shows 60 percent children under five years of age in Karnali are stunted, which is an indicator of chronic undernutrition. Karnali region is also the poorest and most food insecure (40 percent food insecurity), compared to national average (15 percent).

The human development index of the region is lower than Ethiopia and Central African Republic, where 42 percent people live below the poverty line.

Officials in the region said they do not know by when they will be able to provide fortified flour to everyone who needs it.

“The Ministry of Social Development told me it would take a few months to supply the fortified flour,” Mahat told the Post.

Management Division of the Department of Health Services said that the government of Karnali Province has requested the division to procure the fortified flour.

“The federal government had sent budget to procure fortified flour to the province but it failed to procure on time. The provincial government has requested us to help procure the fortified flour,” Dr Surendra Chaurasia of the division told the Post. He said his office would start the procurement process soon and supply the flour to the region at the earliest.

The government had allocated Rs 30 million to buy fortified flour to distribute to the needy people of the region.

Khem Pun, a health assistant serving at District Public Health Office in Jajarkot, also said that children, new mothers and pregnant women of the district were not getting fortified flour for last two months.

“We have been asked to tell people that the programme will remain suspended for a few months,” Pun told the Post over the phone.

Published: 14-04-2019 07:39

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