Nepal’s hunger status improves from ‘alarming’ to ‘serious’

Nepalis are eating better according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI). The Global Hunger Index 2011 Report prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has placed Nepal in the 54th position, up from 56 in 2010.

Nepal is one of 16 countries that have moved up from alarming to serious in the GHI. Nepal has been put in a position of serious in persistent hunger based on data which shows 16 percent of the population to be undernourished, 38.8 percent of under-five children to be underweight and 4.8 percent of them dying before they reach five years of age.

However, the data for undernourishment is from 2005-07, prevalence of underweight children is from 2004-09 and under-five mortality rate is from 2009. Therefore, government officials denied that the food security scenario in the country was as serious as shown by the GHI.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC), the GHI has not taken account of the food situation from 2009 to 2011. “Nepal has improved in food security among South Asian countries although the overall agriculture sector was not good until 2009,” said MoAC Spokesperson Hari Dahal. “Given the fact that the overall food grain (rice, maize, wheat, millet, barley and buckwheat) output grew 11 percent in the last fiscal year, Nepal’s position in the GHI will improve in the next report.”

The MoAC has projected a higher food reserve in 2010-11 after two straight years of deficit. Nepal’s food reserve increased to 443,057 tonnes. The country had a food deficit of 330,000 tonnes and 132,000 tonnes in fiscal years 2009-10 and 2008-09 respectively.

Nepal has been importing food since 2005. According to the MoAC, Nepal imported around 227,000 tonnes of food annually during the period 2005-10. It imported 290,000 tonnes of food in the last fiscal year 2010-11. The MoAC said that the number of food deficit districts had come down to 33 from 38.

Among South Asian countries, Nepal has fared better than Pakistan, India and Bangladesh in the GHI. Nepal is one of those countries where hunger has decreased in the range of 25-50 percent in the last two decades.

The GHI report shows that Nepal and Sri Lanka in South Asia including 14 other countries moved from alarming to serious in persistent hunger while India and Bangladesh including eight other countries moved from extremely alarming to alarming hunger situation in 2011.

The GHI 2011 shows that fewer people are available to work on the farms, and most of the young people are migrating to foreign countries to work. “That is why agricultural labour is not sufficient, and some of the farm land is going to lie fallow. The result is that agricultural production is lower than before, and prices are rising,” according to the report. The report combines three hunger-related indicators—the proportion of undernourished in the population, the prevalence of underweight in children and the mortality rate of children.

The IFPRI’s future projections show a persistent shortfall in the domestic production of rice in Nepal to meet the total demand. Under the pessimistic set of conditions, rice demand in Nepal is projected to be more than double the domestic production in the year 2030. Given that rice is the major crop under cultivation as well as the predominant staple in the Nepali diet, this forecast deficit is a matter of concern.

The IFPRI’s estimates show that the large growth in the direct demand for rice is driven mainly by the high growth in population between now and 2030 and not so much by a rise in per capita consumption.

A supply-side reason behind the projected deficit under the pessimistic scenario is the projected fall in rice production due to constraints on fertiliser supply.

The GHI says that since 1990, 19 countries have moved out of the bottom two categories, alarming and extremely alarming, and 10 out of the bottom. In the 2011 GHI, 26 countries remain in the two most severe GHI hunger categories, compared to 43 in the 1990 GHI.  (Source: ekantipur)

Nepal in Global Hunger INDEX

1990  – 27.1

1996  – 24.6

2001  – 23

2011  – 19.9

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