Malnutrition Rates in Nepal Increase After Earthquake

On April 25, Nepal experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake with several devastating aftershocks over the next month. The damage destroyed the central part of the country, killing over 8,000 people and leaving thousands of others homeless without proper access to water and food.

Before the earthquake, Nepal already had some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Of the children under five, 41 percent have stunted growth, 29 percent are underweight and 11 percent are considered wasted. The nutrient deficiencies are high in expectant mothers as well, which puts babies at a disadvantage before they are even born.

The malnutrition rate in Nepal can be attributed to agricultural problems. The crop production is poor, infrastructure is in deteriorating conditions (making it hard to transport food and aid to areas in need), and climate changes affect the harvest. The recent earthquake has only propagated the lack of agricultural security in Nepal. Landslides have blocked roads and rivers. Flooding is a major concern. Cracks and rubble make it difficult to navigate through cities. All of this accumulates to slow down aid and food supplies reaching people.

While Nepal has been making some progress with the issue of malnutrition, the recent earthquake threatens the past positive movements forward. Currently, about 70,000 children are at risk for malnutrition. In total there are over 1.7 million children in need of aid after the earthquake. In the worst hit areas, like Sinhapalchok and Kathmandu, children live in such dire conditions that they need therapeutic foods–one being a peanut-like paste with high energy and lipid content.

UNICEF is working to combat the downturn in malnutrition rates caused by the earthquake. They are providing therapeutic foods to children in need, screening children to determine who is at risk, providing vaccines and clean water, and handing out supplements. UNICEF is working with national and international aid donors as well as the Nepalese government to reach those who need the most help most. So far, the World Food Program has been able to feed 1.8 million people in difficult to reach places in Nepal.

Aid groups are working double time to decrease the malnutrition rate. The focus is on protecting the children, as they are the most vulnerable during calamitous times. There is still hope that Nepal can begin to see the positive steps forward that had been made before the devastating earthquake and tremors hit, and attempts to re-gain its momentum in combating malnutrition.

-Katherine Hewitt

Sources: UNICEF, BBC, World Food Program
Photo: Expo