Nutrition Issues in Nepal

Mal­nu­tri­tion is a serious problem for chil­dren and mothers in Nepal.

Nutrition issues are complex and sadly affect those who
are already vulnerable in society. Nepal is a developing country and the persistence of poverty is a major cause of poor nutrition. Bad diet, limited education, low status of women, inadequate hygiene, lack of food security and poor infant feeding contribute to nutrition issues for women
and children.

Almost 1 in 30 Nepali chil­dren die before reach­ing their first birth­day and 1 in 25 do not survive to their fifth birth­day[1]

Mal­nour­ished women and chil­dren
Good nutri­tion is vital for chil­dren to grow strong and healthy. Well-fed kids get sick less often and have energy to learn, play and develop their full poten­tial. Chronic mal­nu­tri­tion causes stunt­ing, an irre­versible con­di­tion that limits the phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive growth of children.

  • 36% of Nepali chil­dren age under five suffer from mal­nu­tri­tion (stunt­ing)
  • 27% of chil­dren are underweight
  • 10% are too thin for their height (wasted)

Women at risk of mal­nu­tri­tion are affected by heavy phys­i­cal work­load, inad­e­quate nutri­tion knowl­edge and a lack of extra food intake during preg­nancy and lactating.

  • Half of all mothers in Nepal have a diet which is inad­e­quate in the variety of foods they eat
  • 11% of women age 15–49 are short (less than 145 cm) and 17% are thin (BMI less than 18.5)[2]

Poor breast­feed­ing prac­tices
The World Health Organ­i­sa­tion and UNICEF rec­om­mend that infants are breast­fed within the first hour of birth and are exclu­sively breast­fed for the first 6 months of life. Breast­milk is the most safe and nutri­tious food for babies and pro­vides all the nutri­ents they need to grow strong and healthy.

  • Only 66% of Nepali infants under 6 months of age are exclu­sively breastfed
  • Just 55% of new­borns are breast­fed within one hour of birth
  • 14% of babies are being fed an alter­na­tive milk by 2–3 months of age

Poor com­ple­men­tary feeding of babies
and tod­dlers
As a baby grows, fre­quent breast­feed­ing needs to be com­ple­mented with appro­pri­ate amounts of solid food to help the child develop and stay healthy. Nepali babies and tod­dlers aren’t always getting good com­ple­men­tary food.


  • Nepali chil­dren lack animal protein foods in their diets — just 13% of chil­dren aged 6–23 months were fed an egg the pre­vi­ous day and only 1 in 5 had eaten meat, fish or poultry the day before
  • Just one third of chil­dren aged 6–23 months were fed a Vitamin A rich fruit or veg­etable the day before
  • Only 47% of chil­dren age 6–23 months receive meals that include the minimum rec­om­mended dietary diver­sity (at least four food groups)
  • Only 36% of chil­dren aged 6–23 months are fed a min­i­mally accept­able diet 
  • 71% of chil­dren age 6–23 months are fed meals at the minimum frequency

Anaemia (iron defi­ciency)
Anaemia (iron defi­ciency) par­tic­u­larly affects Nepali women and chil­dren and increases the risk of com­pli­ca­tions both during and after child­birth. Ado­les­cents and the elderly are also vulnerable.

  • 53% of Nepali chil­dren aged 6 – 59 months have suf­fered from anaemia
  • 41% of women aged 15–49 have suf­fered from anaemia
  • Only 35% of chil­dren consume food rich in iron

Vitamin A Defi­ciency
A defi­ciency in Vitamin A can cause night blind­ness, eye damage and per­ma­nent blind­ness. Preg­nant women, breast­feed­ing mothers and chil­dren are most at risk of devel­op­ing this deficiency. 


  • Only 63% of Nepali chil­dren aged 6–23 months consume food rich in Vitamin A

Iodine Defi­ciency Dis­or­ders
Iodine defi­ciency causes goiter, cre­tinism, and growth prob­lems in chil­dren. This defi­ciency also hinders brain development.


  • On average, 95% of house­holds use iodized salt for cooking but Province 6 has the lowest pro­por­tion with only 82% of house­holds using iodized salt


[1] Chil­dren, Food and Nutri­tion: State of the World’s Chil­dren 2019 report, UNICEF, Full report

[2] All other data on this page is from the National Demo­graphic and Health Survey 2016 NDHS 2016, USAID, New Era, GoN Min­istry of Health and Pop­u­la­tion. Key Find­ings, Full Report