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. 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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Nepal’s labour migration trap

Malaysia-bound migrant workers at a Kathmandu-based facility, where their passports and fingerprints are scanned for Immigration and Security Clearance. ©Nepali Times

Experiences from other Asian countries show that people who have gone abroad to work can be reintegrated into the economies of their home countries but it’s a complex process that requires government leadership.

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Fears for maternal health rise in Nepal with coronavirus

Researching this article for The New Humanitarian it became clearer than ever that the status of maternal health in Nepal is cloudy at the best of times since accurate data is unavailable. In the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s really a guess.

A woman sits with her baby outside her shop in the city of Bhaktapur near Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, in June 2014. The government says fewer women are giving birth in health facilities during the coronavirus pandemic. (Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS)

Researching this article for The New Humanitarian it became clearer than ever that the status of maternal health in Nepal is cloudy at the best of times since accurate data is unavailable. In the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s really a guess: everyone assumes it’s getting worse but no one is sure. The local office of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) was supposed to start an assessment with the Government of Nepal late in June but it has yet to begin. Read on:

As home births rise in Nepal, so do fears for maternal health

Home births are rising in Nepal as fewer pregnant women visit hospitals, fuelling fears that the coronavirus pandemic could reverse years of progress on maternal health in the South Asian nation.

The government says less than half of pregnancies are now taking place in health facilities, compared with about 70 percent before coronavirus lockdowns began in March. A separate survey of health facilities across Nepal, conducted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in April, found that visits by pregnant women had dropped as much as 50 percent.

In June, Nirmala Joshi, 24, walked two hours to her nearest hospital in Baitadi, a mountainous district in Nepal’s remote far west, for her first prenatal check-up.

Read the full article.