State of hunger in Nepal, in the world

Though Nepal stands at a moderate level of hunger, countries in South Asia in general face the highest level of hunger and the global hunger situation remains grim, says the 2022 Global Hunger Index.

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Nepal has a level of hunger that is moderate but the situation in many other countries in the world is much worse than in Nepal, according to the 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI), the report of which was launched in Kathmandu on Friday.

The Global Hunger Index is a peer-reviewed annual report, jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at the global, regional, and country levels. The aim of the GHI is to trigger action to reduce hunger around the world.

The report shows that the global hunger situation is grim and the overlapping crises are leading to failures of food systems, from global to local, highlighting the vulnerability of populations around the world to hunger. According to the GHI 2022, the global progress in tackling hunger has come to a halt.

“As many as 828 million people were undernourished in 2021, representing a reversal of more than a decade of progress in tackling hunger. Without a major shift, neither the world as a whole nor approximately 46 countries are projected to achieve even low hunger by 2030,” says the report.

The GHI paints a bleak picture of hunger in the days to come. “The situation is likely to worsen in the face of the current barrage of overlapping global crises—conflict, climate change, and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic—all of which are powerful drivers of hunger,” says the report.

“The war in Ukraine has further increased global food, fuel, and fertilizer prices and has the potential to further aggravate hunger in 2023 and beyond. These crises come on top of underlying factors, such as poverty, inequality, inadequate governance, poor infrastructure, and low agricultural productivity, that contribute to chronic hunger and vulnerability.”

According to GHI 2022, the situation of hunger is serious in South Asia (where hunger is highest) and Africa South of the Sahara (where hunger is second highest). “South Asia has the highest child stunting rate and by far the highest child wasting rate of any world region. In Africa South of the Sahara, the prevalence of undernourishment and the rate of child mortality are higher than in any other world region,” the report says.

Nepal’s situation

Nepal ranks 81st out of the 121 countries in the 2022 Global Hunger Index. With a score of 19.1, Nepal has a level of hunger that is moderate. However, there are variations. For example, stunting rates vary across the provinces with the range of 22.6 and 22.8 percent in Gandaki and Bagmati provinces respectively and to more than double at 47.8 percent in Karnali. Geographical variations, agro-climatic zones, caste/ethnicities, climate induced and pandemic related crisis and gender relations, among others, have impacted the food security situation in Nepal, according to GHI.

“In Nepal, stunting rate is 47.8 percent in Karnali, which shows that the situation of Karnali province is alarming,” said Dr Yamuna Ghale, a food security expert, while addressing the program to launch GHI 2022 report in Kathmandu jointly organized by Welt Hunger Hilfe and NGO Federation of Nepal. She said that Nepal’s score indicates moderate hunger but Nepal still has a lot to do to ensure food security to all of its citizens.

Dr Bimala Rai Paudyal, the foreign minister (the organizer said she had been invited to the program days before she was appointed as the foreign minister) commented on the report by saying that food is connected to many other aspects of life in Nepal. “Tell me what you eat and I can tell you who you are, goes the popular saying,” said the foreign minister. “Food is connected to our identity, health and many more.”

She said food security can be ensured if care is taken to ensure production, distribution, supply, access and purchasing power of customers. “All these aspects are important,” she said. “The report [GHI 2022] is important because it shows where we stand and helps us identify the challenges and opportunities,” said Paudyal, while commenting on the GHI 2022 report.

The foreign minister said that Nepal can address its food insecurity problem by capitalizing on its diversity of agro-ecological zone, reverting to good food habits and reviving our indigenous food culture and indigenous food sharing culture. “Our diversity is our strength,” she said.

Mitigating hunger

The GHI 2022 has laid out some recommendations, including for countries like Nepal, to address the situation of hunger. “Local governments often have fewer resources and technical staff than their central government counterparts. Given the wide diversity of local government settings, it is important to ensure that governance efforts are well matched to conditions and capacities on the ground and to be realistic about the replicability of such tools,” the GHI has recommended.

Likewise, the GHI says that local communities with the worst hunger can gain from improved accountability. However, owing to weak or poor governance, high levels of displacement, and a lack of security, any initiatives to enhance accountability will encounter a greater risk of failure. Thus “development partners need to be prepared for this potential trade-off, adopting a sufficiently long timeline and flexible funding arrangements,” says the report.