Dalit & indigenous groups more vulnerable to food insecurity in post-quake Nepal: UN

Food insecurity
A representative picture courtesy WFP

Food security in Nepal has improved since the devastating earthquake of April 2015 but Dalit and indigenous people continue to be vulnerable groups, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said in a press release yesterday. 

Dalit and single female-headed households in particular are still not out of the woods, the UN agency warned, ”There remains a pressing need for assistance in mountain and hill areas with a higher proportion of marginalised and isolated ethnic and indigenous groups.”

According to a joint UN assessment report released on February 22, a third of Dalit population fall below the acceptable threshold for food consumption, followed by Janajati households at 21.3 percent. As opposed to these high numbers, only 6.8 percent of of the so-called higher castes (Brahmins and Chhetris) suffer from the scourge of food insecurity, the UN agency pointed out in the statement

As more and more men from the earthquake-affected districts leave their families behind in search of employment, single female-headed households are increasingly becoming susceptible to food insecurity.

The WFP, Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) conducted a joint assessment focusing on agriculture, early recovery, food security and livelihoods. ”The assessment shows a significant improvement across food security since the 2015 earthquake. This has been attributed to the levels of humanitarian assistance received, the start of the summer harvest, and the restoration of access to markets and improvements to their general functionality,” the WFP said in the press statement.

The study surveyed more than 4,000 households in 11 earthquake-affected districts in Nepal from September to October 2015. It is a follow-up to the baseline assessment conducted in May 2015 in the immediate aftermath of the April 25 earthquake.

Agriculture was the most commonly reported income source for both men and women, with a slightly higher proportion of households reporting this as the primary source of income for women as opposed to men. The majority of assets lost or damaged in the earthquake were reportedly tools and infrastructure associated with agricultural livelihoods, which is reflected in lower expectations of agricultural production and higher debt. Overall, an estimated 78.9 percent of households reported having debts at the time of the assessment, with high outstanding debt loads across the board.

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