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Nutrition and food security take a hit after earthquake in Nepal

Posted:  Friday, July 10, 2015

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 70,000 under five Nepalese children are at risk of malnutrition after the recent earthquake. Although a positive progress was made prior to the natural disaster, lack of access to optimum nutrition at shelters after the earthquake threatens this progress and increases the risk of malnutrition and consequently the mortality rates in children.

Adding fuel to fire, farmers resorted to lesser meals per day and reduced food diversity to cope with the dire situation. Inadequate diet, disease, lack of access to healthcare facilities, and loss of stored grains and livestock extensively increased the risk of malnutrition, rendering children highly vulnerable.

Nutrition experts also expressed concern about the primacy of distribution of junk food by aid workers over provision of local grains and vegetables. The nutrition security of Nepal has taken a drastic hit with disruption in agriculture due to the destruction wielded by the earthquake and farmers depending on distributed food rather than growing crops.

Seeking to improve the nutritional status in the hill country, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has distributed 20,000 airtight grain storage bags (20,000 more to be delivered), nearly 20,000 bags (25kg) of animal feed, and 50,000 packets of mixed vegetable seeds.

The five key aspects emphasised by UNICEF to prevent malnutrition are: breastfeeding, complementary feeding, therapeutic feeding and care, supplementary feeding, and providing micronutrients to children and women. Talking about ways to avoid malnutrition in children over the age of seven, Stanley Chitekwe, Nutrition Chief at UNICEF, stressed that, “When you feed a child you must give him food from four out of the seven main groups of food.”

On a parting note, Hari Dahal, former secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, stated that the government must continue to distribute food to the survivors and simultaneously plan for long-term food security as nutrition and food security go hand in hand.

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