Nutrition in Nepal


Malnutrition is a serious problem in Nepal, as in other countries of South Asia, and is a major threat to the health of infants, adolescent girls and pregnant & lactating mothers.

National studies over the last 50 years show malnutrition rates in children under 5 years of age persist at rates around 50%.

At current mortality levels, one in every twenty one children dies before reaching the age of one year, while one in every sixteen does not survive to their fifth birthday. Although child mortality has reduced in recent years, malnutrition amongst the increased number of surviving children remains unacceptably high.

Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM)

The Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2006 (NDHS 2006) found that 49% of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting), 39% of the children are underweight (low weight for age) and 13% are wasted (thin for their age). Apart from the immediate and long-term impact on childrenís health, this malnutrition also reduces the populationís educational achievements, labour productivity and economic growth.

Similarly, 24% of women are malnourished as defined by BMI<18.5.
This is related to low energy intake versus heavy physical workload, inadequate nutrition knowledge, and and lack of extra food intake during pregnant and lactating.

Breastfeeding Practice

Despite UNICEF and WHO recommendations, only one in two Nepali children less then age 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed.

Breastmilk is the best nutrition for babies to achieve proper growth and development and is said to be the first immunization. Although breastfeeding is universal in Nepali culture, exclusive breastfeeding practice is not satisfactory.
  • Only 53 % of children under 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed.
  • Just one in three children (35%) are breastfed within one hour of birth
  • In 18% of cases, initiation of breast feeding is delayed for more than 24 hours.

Complementary Feeding

Good infant and young child feeding practices include the feeding of appropriate types and amounts of solid/semi-solid foods from the age of 6 months while maintaining frequent breastfeeding. In Nepal, less than 60% of children under 2 are fed according to these guidelines.
  • 32% of children are fed a milk other than breastmilk by the age of 4 months; 23% of children are eating food made from grains by this age.
  • 50% of children are not eating major sources of protein (legumes, meat, eggs, etc.) by the age of 3; only a quarter of children consume dairy products at this age.
  • Less than 20% of children are fed foods containing high levels of fat.

Micronutrient Deficiencies

Malnutrition encompasses a multitude of micronutrient deficiencies which affect all aspects of human development and particularly impact maternal mortality, birth outcome, child morbidity & mortality, and childhood development.

Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA)

IDA affects women and children in particular, as well as adolescents and the elderly. Anaemia increases the risk of problems for mother and baby during and after delivery.
IDA is suffered by 48% of children and 36% of women.

Less than 30% consume iron-rich foods.

Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD)

VAD occurs when people do not eat enough foods containing vitamin A or fat. VAD not only causes night blindness, permanent damage to the eyes and even blindness, but also increases risk to and severity of infections. Pregnant & breastfeeding mothers and children are most at risk of VAD.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is found sub-clinically in 32% of pre-school children; 5% of mothers suffer night blindness, an indicator of severe VAD.

Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD)

Iodine deficiency causes goiter, cretinism, and growth problems in children, as well as hindering brain development.

Iodine deficiency is seen in almost 40% of women and school-going children. Only 63% of households use adequately iodised salt.

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