Nepal takes huge bite into school feeding

Nepal has taken on the huge challenge of feeding every one of its students up to grade 5 one hot meal a day. The people are committed but can the government deliver?

Students wash up after their midday meal in Bajhang district, March 2022. ©Marty Logan

I recently received a fellowship to report about nutrition and chose to focus on school feeding, mainly in Nepal (links below).

About five years ago the government decided to invest heavily in the programme and in the following four years its investment in school meals almost quadrupled.

Government-run by 2024

For decades, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing school meals to kids in the poorest parts of the country and slowly the government started running its own programme in other districts. Today, WFP is feeding kids at school in just six districts, with half of the cost paid by the government. By 2024, the ministry of education will be running the operation country-wide.

I have no doubt that the programme can be effective. Although the schools I visited were obviously chosen so I would see positive examples and don’t represent the reality across Nepal, I believe that most parents, teachers and local governments (who transfer the money from the central government to the schools) are committed to making it work.

I believe that most parents, teachers and local governments are committed to making it work.

Yes, no doubt there is corruption — abetted by the fact that officials in Kathmandu have not yet provided programme guidelines — but I choose to believe it happens in a small minority of cases.

That said, the challenges are immense. The government provides just 15 rupees (0.12 $US) per child per meal to prepare food that must meet daily nutrition needs, an amount that WFP Nepal affirms is adequate (for the food only, but perhaps insufficient to cover associated transport, cooking, and equipment costs). But one NGO in Kathmandu that is feeding kids in schools in two municipalities says it’s actually spending 30 rupees per meal, albeit to cover all of its costs.

Sourcing ingredients locally

The central government has also committed to what’s known as homegrown school feeding. This approach stipulates that schools should source their food from local farmers. I saw this working in Kailali district, in the fertile western plains region, in part thanks to assistance from WFP. But in some hill and mountain areas this just won’t be possible because of seasonal constraints. How will the programme compensate for this?

WFP Nepal says it’s committed to working with the government after 2024, including to approach donors for funding. Such multilateral assistance will be key if the programme is to succeed. Just as important will be effective management, including monitoring, from the government.

My reporting:

More pills, still no magic—maternal health care in the hills of Nepal

Late last year I returned to Chimling Village in Sindhupalchowk district, in Nepal, to follow up on maternal health issues. I was impressed and disappointed at the same time.

Late last year I returned to Chimling Village in Nepal’s Sindhupalchowk district to follow up on maternal health issues. I was impressed and disappointed at the same time.

I first visited the cluster of tiny cement houses at the top of a steep, rocky and rutted dirt road in March 2021. My goal was to trace an essential drug called misoprostol, which is used to stop bleeding after birth (also known as post-partum haemorrhage). There was a major shortage of the drug in 2020, so Nepal’s Ministry of Health had requested help from the international community.

Continue reading “More pills, still no magic—maternal health care in the hills of Nepal”

A tall order

A couple of decades ago Nepal was a world leader in fighting nutrition, especially stunting (low height for age). Can it regain that position in time to reach targets in 2025 and 2030?

Lunch time at a Mothers Group meeting in Achham District in 2018. PHOTO: Marty Logan

A white-coated nurse holding a blue and white, half-litre bag of milk stands in front of a small group of mothers seated near the entrance of the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Kathmandu. 

She is explaining the importance of feeding milk to their children, who are lolling on their mothers’ laps. On a table behind the nurse are containers of pulses and legumes and leaning against the wall, charts displaying leafy vegetables.

But later, listening to the women’s stories, it is apparent that solving their children’s problems will require more than a healthy diet. Through tears, Chandra, 24, says she brought her son Raju, 21 months, to the Home after a routine hospital check-up found that he was malnourished. 

Continue reading “A tall order”

Introducing Strive podcast

Strive, a new podcast from IPS News, hosted by Marty Logan

This is a short post to announce that I’m hosting a new podcast, Strive, by IPS News. It is similar to Nepal Now, a podcast I created one year ago, but with a global vision.

Our first episode, about a civil-society led campaign to boost mask wearing to fight Covid-19 in South Asia, is online and more will soon follow.

Continue reading “Introducing Strive podcast”

Right this wrong done to women

I really appreciated this editorial in The Kathmandu Post on Wednesday, 21 July. It linked two things I care about—human rights and maternal health.

A community health unit and a birthing centre were established in Dhiri four months ago but the number of service seekers is minimal. Prakash Baral/TKP

I really appreciated this editorial in The Kathmandu Post on Wednesday, 21 July. It linked two things I care about—human rights and maternal health.

It noted that the United Nations Human Rights Council has just released a statement calling on governments worldwide to ensure that women’s right to sexual and reproductive health is ensured, among other things. The paper linked that with its recent reporting about women in remote areas of Nepal giving birth at home and even in sheds!

Continue reading “Right this wrong done to women”

Can a developing country ‘build back better’?

Researcher Sijal Pokhrel.

Globally there are signs that some countries are taking policy decisions that will advance sustainable development post-Covid-19, including the United States under the new Biden administration, but as a non-expert I feel pretty confident to say the evidence is inconclusive that the world will be on a greener path.

So given how hard it seems to be for rich countries to turn that corner, it seems unlikely that a ‘developing’ country like Nepal could make it happen. Although it was progressing before the pandemic, the challenges were enormous and included climate change (evidenced by melting glaciers) high unemployment that was sending more and more young people abroad to find work, and stalled progress in terms of mother and child health after decades of impressive results.

Continue reading “Can a developing country ‘build back better’?”

Roadbuilding for development: who wins and who loses?

A map of the road in Nepal’s Humla district, bordering Tibet, studied by researcher Phurwa Dhondup.

Roads lead to development: they link remote places with markets, hospitals and schools, says one side of the argument. Roads ruin the unique nature of untouched places, reducing an already too homogeneous world to sameness, retorts the other side.

Continue reading “Roadbuilding for development: who wins and who loses?”

Childhood: another casualty of Covid-19

Girl facilitators in a meeting organised by UNFPA in Udaypur District. ©UNFPA.

Child marriage has risen in many countries since the world started locking down earlier this year. In fact, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is predicting that if conditions don’t change, the pandemic will contribute to an additional 13 million marriages of children (mostly under 18) in the next decade.

The causes of child marriage are many and complex — economic, social and cultural. In Nepal, girls are often seen as a burden: raised by their parents only to be sent away to live with their husband’s family, and on top of that a girl is usually expected to carry with her a dowry for the groom’s family, which can amount to a huge amount of cash and goods, big enough to put her family in debt for many years.

Continue reading “Childhood: another casualty of Covid-19”

Kids ‘as strong as Mount Everest’ and the private sector

A child eats a healthy meal preparing at a meeting of a Mothers Group in Achham District, Nepal, 2018. © Marty Logan

Just over a year ago President Bidya Bhandari of Nepal launched a new group, Baliyo (strong or mighty) Nepal, created to tackle the persistent malnutrition in the country that stubbornly refuses to be beaten.

Almost immediately a backlash hit. Local media reported that the group was a creation of the Chaudhary Group, one of whose companies makes Wai Wai instant noodles, a type of junk food that can be found in virtually every village of the country. One paper quoted a Chaudhary official saying that Baliyo Nepal would ‘improve’ Wai Wai to feed it to malnourished kids.

Continue reading “Kids ‘as strong as Mount Everest’ and the private sector”

Remittance earnings boost villages — usually

The remittances that migrant labourers send back to their countries contribute massively to those economies, but the impact on poverty reduction is much more complex, as a new book by Ramesh Sunam details

A village in Achham district, Far-western Nepal, 2017.
A village in Achham district, Far-western Nepal, 2017.

The remittances that migrant labourers send back to their countries contribute massively to those economies, but the impact on poverty reduction is much more complex, as a new book by Ramesh Sunam details

This article was published in Nepali Times on 15 September 2020.

As you might expect, the remittance village is punctuated by smooth, concrete houses rising among their weary-looking brick, mud and bamboo neighbours, a settlement where shiny motorcycles whine back and forth.

 But in the remittance village you will also find residents who cannot even afford the price of a flight ticket to join the growing queue of fellow villagers trooping overseas to earn. It is also a place where going to work abroad actually drives some households into poverty instead of lifting them out of it. 

Continue reading “Remittance earnings boost villages — usually”
%d bloggers like this: