Quarter of Nepalis still hungry during pandemic


Nepalis continue to suffer from pandemic-induced food insecurity even as Nepal sees the first signs of the second wave of Covid-19.

 A new report released last week shows that 16.8% of households have inadequate food consumption, and nearly 2.7% had insufficient food stock to meet their needs, 43% of children between 6-23 months did not meet the minimum recommended dietary needs.

The survey was conducted in December 2020 by the UN World Food Programme (UN-WFP) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, with support from the Australian government. It is the third in a series of nationwide surveys to assess the impact of Covid-19 on household food security in Nepal. The first two rounds were conducted in April, and August 2020.

The survey covered 4,416 households from all seven provinces, and was collected through live telephone interviews.

The highest prevalence of food insecurity, as measured by poor nutrition, was found in Karnali Province, accounting for 4.7% of households, followed by Province 2 (3.8%), Gandaki (2.7%) and Sudurpaschim (2.5%).

Families have adopted negative livelihood coping strategies to address food shortages such as borrowing money, harvesting immature crops, selling livestock, household assets, or even house and property.

The good news is that the food security situation has been gradually improving, with a smaller proportion of households consuming inadequate diets in December 2020 compared to August and April 2020. More than 3 out of 4 respondents reported having food stocks, of which nearly 50% had more than one month's worth of food stock.

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“The findings from the survey indicate gradual improvements in terms of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on food security and livelihoods. Yet, the aggravated conditions persist and continue to affect Nepali households,” states the report.

“The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on job loss and income reduction remains notable and can further put pressure on income generation and livelihoods. Such prolonged exposure to adversary conditions, together with the upcoming lean season, can, in turn, lead to further risk of food insecurity.”

Easing of restrictions and opening of economic activities, as well as recently harvested summer crops and assistance from various government and aid agencies,  are likely the reasons for the improvement in food security.

However, analysis of the survey data shows that there is a deepening of food insecurity in areas that are chronically more vulnerable like western Nepal.

In fact, more households remain food insecure during the pandemic than five years ago. In December 2020, 17% of households had inadequate food consumption, but in December 2016 the figure was 15%.

In the survey, households with low education levels, a chronically ill member, female-headed households, and households living in rural areas were found to be more food insecure.

Similarly, loss of income was the largest among large and medium traders (48%), remittance recipient families (46%), followed by daily wage labourers in agriculture and cash crop producers (33%). A total of 25% of non-agriculture daily wage labourers reported having a loss of income source followed by 11.6% agriculture-related daily wage labourer.

Read also: The rise of rice in Nepal, Krishna Dev Joshi and Santosh Upadhaya

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