The Government of Japan is to provide assistance worth $3.47 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Nepal, to support families worst-hit by the loss of income because of the Covid pandemic. The Mother and Child Health and Nutrition Programme will fund projects in five districts of Provinces 1 and 2.
The support is in the long line of the Japanese government’s continued assistance to Nepal to improve the health and nutrition of young mothers and children. Outgoing Japanese Ambassador to Nepal Saigo Masamichi and WFP Nepal Country Representative Susan Jane Pearce signed the grant agreement.
“This partnership between the Japanese Government, the Government of Nepal, and WFP has the potential to improve the health and nutrition of 19,000 children aged 6 to 23 months and 49,700 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers through specialised nutritious food. Community Food Banks equipped with food storage facilities will be set up targeting 25,000 households,” said Masamichi during the signing event.
Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Saptari and Siraha districts, prone to annual flash floods and landslides made worse by the climate crisis, are the core project areas. The assistance will also help populations whose livelihood was disrupted by the Covid-19 lockdowns and the economic collapse, mainly in rural locations where agriculture is the primary source of income for families.
A series of surveys by UNICEF Nepal and Sharecast Initiative last year concluded that 42% of households in Nepal have no income as an impact of the pandemic. The study also showed that another 19% families have a monthly income of less than NRs10,000.
A separate study by the Ministry of Agriculture showed that nearly a quarter of families in Nepal are eating less, and 6% had run out of food following the coronavirus crisis. Province 2 is among the most vulnerable of the districts suffering the impact.
The grant will further boost the ability of 2,500 government officials and health specialists to support health and nutrition services during pregnancy and childbirth, monitor child growth, and provide nutrition counselling at 100 municipal health facilities.
Says Susan Jane Pearce of WFP Nepal: “Covid-19 has had severe impacts. By supporting the production and consumption of locally available and traditionally consumed nutritious food and through shock-responsive community food banks, we hope that this project will increase dietary diversity among the poor and food insecure households and build community resilience to climatic shocks.”