Survey: Gender discrimination fuels malnutrition in Nepal’s women and children

IRIN, the humanitarian news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, cites a preliminary Nepal Demographic Health Survey finding that gender discrimination and neglect are fueling malnutrition in the isolated mid-western region of Nepal.

The survey estimates that 29 percent of Nepalese children under the age of five are malnourished and that the burden is not distributed equally between genders. Boys and men, for example, traditionally eat meals first and consume the most nutrient-rich foods, while women and girls eat what is left over.

Indra Raj Panta, program officer for UNICEF’s Decentralized Action for Children and Women in Nepal explains, “Girls are neglected because they are thought not to need strength.” This sentiment does not reflect the labor responsibilities demanded of Nepalese women and girls, who continue to labor throughout their pregnancies. The result is a cycle of women delivering underweight babies who are then subject to stunting and wasting. IRIN notes, “Girls who are not fed well turn into women who are more likely to give birth to low weight babies, and so the cycle perpetuates.”