Ravenous for reform

  • The government should take its target of eliminating hunger in 10 years seriously
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Mar 15, 2016-

Millions of people across the world go to bed every night with sharp pangs of hunger. South Asia in particular is a poverty-stricken region where huge swathes of people live in penury and experience hunger regularly. In Nepal, almost a quarter of the people are below the poverty line, many of whom have experienced hunger at some point in time.  

The government’s plan to eradicate hunger from the country in the next 10 years is therefore a welcome one. On Sunday, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and World Food Programme Director General José Graziano da Silva jointly released the “National Action Plan on Zero Hunger Initiative in Nepal (2016 - 2025)”. 

The plan includes guaranteeing year-round food availability, eliminating stunting in children below two years of age, increasing productivity and income of small farmers by 100 percent, ensuring minimal wastage of food, and properly utilising barren land, irrigation facilities and markets, among others.  

The plan, however, is ambitious. True to form, Oli sounded even more ambitious when he remarked that Nepal was committed to eliminating hunger before the deadline, and that the problem would be “solved within a few years.” He also said the government was committed to making the country self-dependent on food within the next two years. Nepal is one of the 52 countries where the level of hunger is considered “serious” or “alarming”, according to the 2015 Global Hunger Index, a tool designed to measure and track hunger globally. It is also one of the 34 countries that do not have enough food for their people, according to a UN report released on March 9. Thirty-two of Nepal’s 75 districts face food deficits. The government will have to spend Rs25 billion every year to meet the target of eradicating hunger by 2025. It therefore needs to put its money where its mouth is. 

Certain parts of the country are more susceptible to hunger than others. Karnali, for example, is facing one of the worst droughts in the last 30 years. The problem, however, is as much political as it is natural. Successive governments have failed to adopt policies appropriate for the region. 

Apart from being a moral imperative, tackling hunger is a pragmatic measure to boost economic growth. Lack of food makes people weaker and vulnerable to disease. Children in particular are stunted in body and enfeebled in mind when they are underfed. Many women in rural parts are not as well-fed as men in their family. Malnourished women are also more likely to produce malnourished offspring. It will be impossible for the country to fulfil its potential for growth if its people do not develop physically and mentally for lack of food. 

Combating hunger with greater determination should therefore be a national priority. The government’s target unveiled this week, though ambitious, is not unattainable. The most important factor in achieving it is political commitment.  

Published: 15-03-2016 08:52

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