Nepal, a country of 29.2 million, is one of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) and ranks 142 on the Human Development Index. The population living under the national poverty line is estimated at 23.8 percent in 2013 which is a decline from 42 percent in 1996. The population living under the international poverty line of $1.25 per day has declined steadily from 68.0% in 1996 to 53.1% in 2004 24.8% in 2011 (NLSS 2011, Country Poverty Analysis 2013-2017) and 17.4 % in 2017. The more holistic Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) likewise shows a decline, from 30.1 percent in 2014 to 17.4 percent, and MPI dropped from 0.133 to 0.074, being cut by nearly half in a mere five years. This is a remarkable result, given that the SDG aim is to cut multidimensional poverty by half in fifteen years. Significant gains toward poverty reduction have been achieved in the country over time, but income inequality has remained a major challenge. Despite the marked reduction, in multidimensional poverty, still, 4.9 million people are multi-dimensionally poor, which is 17.4% of Nepal’s population (MPI Report, 2021). With a hopeful stride towards development, Nepal has set a target to graduate from the status of an LDC) by 2022. Similarly, poverty in rural Nepal is still higher than in urban Nepal, even though rural poverty is declining at a faster pace than urban poverty. While urban poverty fell from 21.6% in 1996 to 10.0% in 2004, it again rose to 15.5% in 2011. On the other hand, rural poverty has declined continuously from 43.3% to 35.0% and 27.4% between 1996, 2004, and 2011.
Poor nutrition and food insecurity have remained challenges and impediments to development in Nepal. Poverty is one of the important determinants of food insecurity and poor nutrition. National surveys over the past decades have consistently demonstrated high levels of child undernutrition plaguing the country. Nepal Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 has reported that 31.5 percent of the Nepali children under five years were too short or stunted and 12 percent were too thin or wasted reflecting the extent of chronic and acute undernutrition respectively. While as per the Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2016, more than half (53%) of the children aged 6-59 months and 41% of the women aged 15-49 are anemic. On top, deep disparities exist in health and nutrition indicators across different provinces, ecological zone, regions, urban versus rural areas, and wealth quintiles. Besides, the problems of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, the issues of overnutrition (obesity and overweight) are increasing in Nepal as people’s diets shift toward processed foods with higher energy, fat, and sugar (Subedi, Marais, and Newslands 2017).
Nepal Living Standard Survey 2011 found that 38 percent of Nepali people are living with less than the minimum daily requirement of calories required for a healthy life. A significant disparity prevails between ecological zones, provinces, and the rural-urban divide. Compared to terai (24 percent), the population living with insufficient calorie intake is higher in hilly (36 percent) and mountainous (38 percent) areas. Moreover, the diets of Nepali children aged 6–23 months are largely suboptimal: just 31 percent receive a minimum acceptable diet (NMICS, 2019). Further, the proportion of children aged 6–23 months receiving the minimum acceptable diet is lowest in the Terai, even though that is the country’s most agriculturally productive region. In addition, by ecological region, hilly and mountainous areas of the Mid- and Far-Western development regions are worst hit by food insecurity and insufficient calorie intake.
The food security situation has also not been satisfactory. The Global Hunger Index, which is a multidimensional approach to measuring hunger, ranked Nepal as 76 out of 114 countries in 2021. Nepal’s Global Hunger Index score of 19.5 in 2020, down from 37.4 in 2000, is an improvement compared to the past and the country is no longer in the "alarming” category. However, it is still classified as “moderate” showing that despite improvements, food and nutrition insecurity is still cause for concern.
Nutrition and food security are multidimensional. Hence, other multi-sector statistics such as education, agriculture, WASH, etc. are also very much related to them. The multi-sector indicators work in a bidirectional pathway meaning they are contributors to poor nutrition and food insecurity and can also be their manifestations. Most of the development indicators continue to have wide disparities by province, wealth quintile, educational status, ethnicity, and urban versus rural areas in Nepal.