Kathmandu, Nepal (UPI) Aug 31, 2010
Nepal, already struggling with high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity, could see its harvests cut in half this year due to late monsoon rains, the World Food Program says.
Of particular concern, said Dominique Hyde, deputy country director of WFP in Nepal, is the mid and far western area of the country, home to 600,000 of the country's estimated 3.6 million people who are considered food insecure.
Hyde noted that there have been three droughts since 2006 and now the region is experiencing an erratic monsoon, which she attributed to climate change.
"We're expecting a 30-50 percent loss of harvest because of this year's monsoon," Hyde said, reports IRIN, the news agency of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The mid-western Karnali region -- considered the poorest, least developed and most food insecure part of Nepal -- has the highest levels of malnutrition in the country. Nearly 70 percent of children under 5 years old have stunted growth and nearly half are underweight, WFP says.
Because Karnali lacks proper irrigation and landslides frequently block the main road, its rain-fed production usually only provides the local population with enough food to last half a year or less.
"You have people who have been trying to deal with drought over the past three to four years, and have depleted their assets," said Hyde. "What do they do? How do they cope? They have used most of their assets, so they pull their children out of school. They send their relatives to India, so it's one less mouth to fill."
To tackle Nepal's limited agricultural output, the U.N. Development Program has suggested increasing irrigation projects, making better use of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides as well as addressing the effects climate change and deforestation.
WFP and the Nepali government's Poverty Alleviation Fund signed a memorandum of understanding Sunday to form a strategic alliance aimed at alleviating poverty and food insecurity in the mid to far-western regions.
"The partnership is about two organizations with significant on-the-ground capacity and experience joining hands to effectively reach the most vulnerable and isolated communities in the country," said Vidyadhar Mallik, vice chairman of PAF, The Hindustan Times reports.
Although Nepal's government signed over a $36 million World Bank grant to WFP this month, it still is $21 million short, Hyde said, and the organization plans to scale back from serving 22 districts to 16 districts in November. If WFP doesn't receive additional funds, it will have to further decrease its scope to 10 districts.
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