Four months since the first of two devastating earthquakes struck the nation, children are struggling to receive adequate nutrition, warns child rights organisation Plan International Australia.
Paolo Lubrano, Deputy Emergency Response Manager for Plan International in Nepal, notes that nearly half of the 500,000 homes that collapsed as a result of the earthquakes lost stored grains, seeds and other crucial food stores. Now more than 10,000 children have been identified as acutely malnourished.
The impact of the powerful earthquakes – the first of which hit with a magnitude of 7.9 on April 25 – on the availability of nutritious food has been particularly harsh for newborns and children under five years old, and comes in a country already suffering from high rates of child malnutrition, Lubrano says.
“Many families now do not have access to their own food, and that means mothers must eat less. On top of that, many are also suffering from diseases related to unclean drinking water or sanitation. Both of these factors mean they are producing less breast milk for their babies,” he says.
“Another problem is that now is the season for harvesting maize and planting paddy and millet – all vital crops here in Nepal. Women are working hard to increase crop production and so they are focusing on harvesting and planting and have less time to cook and to feed their children,” Lubrano says.
“It’s a very difficult situation since mothers want to focus on the immediate needs of their children, and yet the impact of the earthquake demands that they focus on longer-term food production – and it’s impossible to do both,” he adds.
Plan International has been prioritising the health and wellbeing of children affected by the earthquake by distributing food, and so far has distributed 40,000 food packs. Each food pack contains 20kgs of rice, 3kgs of pulses, oil, salt, sugar and spices – enough to support a family of five for a week.
Plan International is also supporting the livelihoods of affected children and families through cash transfers and cash-for-work programs, which provide the most vulnerable families with cash to help them meet their needs for food and shelter.
Plan International is also supporting hundreds of volunteers to coordinate monthly women’s groups, during which babies and children are weighed and monitored and mothers introduced to cooking techniques and practices to help them cope with impact of the earthquakes on food production and availability.
“We teach mothers how to cook and prepare nutritious food with what’s available. Plus, we bring toys for the kids so that they are happy, active and stimulated – and we do that because children eat more food when they are happy. With adequate nutrition a growing concern, this is extremely important,” Lubrano says.
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 77 years ago, working in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.
Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945