Understanding the rapid reduction of undernutrition in Nepal, 2001–2011

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South Asia has long been synonymous with unusually high rates of undernutrition. In the past decade, however, Nepal has arguably achieved the fastest recorded decline in child stunting in the world and has done so in the midst of civil war and post-conflict political instability. Given recent interest in reducing undernutrition – particularly the role of nutrition-sensitive policies – this paper aims to quantitatively understand this surprising success story by analyzing the 2001, 2006, and 2011 rounds of Nepal’s Demographic Health Surveys. To do so, the authors construct models of the intermediate determinants of child and maternal nutritional change and then decompose predicted changes in nutrition outcomes over time. Four broad drivers of change are identified: asset accumulation, health and nutrition interventions, maternal educational gains, and improvements in sanitation. Many of these changes were clearly influenced by policy decisions, including increased public investments in health and education and community-led health and sanitation campaigns. Other factors, such as rapid growth in migration-based remittances, are more a reflection of household responses to changing political and economic circumstances.

 

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