The new MDG report probes the country's development performance

05 Sep 2005

The new MDG report probes the country's development performance and calls for more equitable distribution of aid

Kathmandu, 5 September 2005 - "Nepal has made a remarkable progress considering the difficult situation in the country in recent years", asserts a new progress report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) launched today in Kathmandu, Nepal. However, conflict remains a major problem along with glaring issues of exclusion and discrimination which still exist among large sections of the country’s population.

The report underscores a strong need to improve the efficiency and coordination of aid to ensure that it reaches the poorest regions and the most vulnerable groups. “This report is also a call to everyone to join hands with the common objective of promoting the well being of the Nepalese people by creating a level playing field for all citizens to participate fully in the development process,??? said Dr. Shankar Sharma, Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission.

While the country overall witnessed a dramatic progress in cutting poverty from 42% in 1996 to 31% in 2004, this development was not equitable. The poorest region most affected by the conflict like the Midwestern region still has a poverty incidence almost 20% higher than that of the Central region.

Intensifying violence and political instability have been hampering the effective utilization of aid, asserts the report. Furthermore, it has taken a heavy toll on the economy and the people. Yet, if Nepalese are to be free from poverty by 2015, Nepal will experience a total financing gap of US$7.6 billion for the period of 2005 and 2015.

“The intensifying security threat compounded by political uncertainty has seriously held up development activities. However, most of the targets show positive trends to meet the goals by 2015,??? says UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Mr. Ghulam Isaczai. “It is extremely important to invest in equitable development and human security in a broader sense to promote peace and development for all Nepalese,??? he added.

According to the report Nepal is likely to meet Goal #1 of halving the proportion of people living below the national poverty line by 2015. It is also likely that goal #5of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015 will be met. Similarly the target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water is likely to be met with the situation fairly improving.

In addition, some extra efforts from the side of the government and the donor partners may help in achieving three goals i.e. Gender Equality (Goal #3), Improve Maternal Health and (Goal #5), Ensuring Environmental Sustainability(Goal #7 ).

However the report strongly states that Goal #3 -of achieving universal primary education is unlikely to be met. Furthermore, unless special initiatives to reach children from disadvantaged families are introduced, it will be difficult for Nepal to maintain the same pace of improvement and reach 100% Millennium Development Goals target.

Similarly halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS (Goal #6) by 2015 is also unlikely to be met despite the improving situation. The trend shows that unless programmes are implemented on a war footing, a generalized epidemic with high mortality in the most economically productive group will begin and will start a vicious circle. However the target of halting and reversing the spread of Tuberculosis is likely to met by 2015.

Increased feminization of poverty

The report observes an increased 'feminization' of poverty. Despite a wide range of measures adopted to enhance women's participation in public life, persistent gender disparities in education hinder women’s equitable participation in employment.

Similarly, the ‘feminization’ of agriculture combined with on-going conflict in recent years has contributed to greater vulnerability among women in the farming sector. Women now represent nearly half of the work force in the agriculture sector and seem to be replacing men in subsistence agriculture.

For the authors, efforts focusing on the empowerment of women and girls must be geared up by investing more in the provision of education and skills training opportunities, as well as investing in socio-economic infrastructures that serves the interest of poor women.

Promote Schools as Zone of Peace

"Although the school enrolment campaign of 2005 has added 200,000 more children, it is hard to know how many will continue school next year in the absence of policy for their retention", says the report. Unless special initiatives to reach children from disadvantaged families are introduced with strong monitoring mechanisms, it will be difficult for Nepal to reach its target of 100% boys and girls achieving primary schooling. The authors also urge for effective interventions to help children in conflict affected areas and promote schools as zone of peace.

30,000 new born children die each year

While the overall health of children has improved, the proportion of neonatal deaths has increased from 40% of infant mortality in 1987 to 60% in 2001. Nepal’s newborn mortality is the third highest in the world. The report estimates that nearly 30,000 children die each year in Nepal during their first month of life.

The country also has the fourth lowest percentage of births attended by skilled personal and the fact that 80% of deliveries take place at home is a serious obstacle to reducing maternal and child mortality.

In addition, the analysis diagnoses child malnutrition as the underlying cause for half the child deaths. About half of Nepalese children under three years of age are stunted, and most children suffer from micronutrient deficiency.

To address these challenges, the report advises that simple, home based, district-level interventions supported through training for health workers and midwives and publicly financed provision would reduce the number of neonatal deaths.