Baliyo Nepal Nutrition Initiatives (BNNI), the organization working towards reducing issues of malnutrition in the country with the strong stand of “If every child was as strong as Everest, what could our Nepal be?”, has planned to address the food insecurity in the country that is created due to the recent global COVID-19 pandemics.
The pandemic Corona virus has developed into a humanitarian crisis in large parts of the country. The NDHS 2016 data reveals that more than 4.5 million people food-insecure, of which around 20% of households are mildly food-insecure, 22% moderately food-insecure, and 10% severely food-insecure. Overall, households in rural areas – where food prices tend to be higher – are more likely to be food-insecure than people living in urban areas.
COVID-19 Impact & Nutrition
The impact of continued lockdown in the country from March 25 have resulted in the increasing situations of food insecurity, particularly in the mid and far-west, which is also a home to Nepal’s most vulnerable and food insecure populations.
Tens of thousands of low income migrant Nepalese workers from India have returned home in this region. The United Nations World Food Program has predicted that present pandemic crisis might be the cause to 15 – 30% increase in malnutrition and food-insecurity is expected to increase among: households engaged in informal labor, precarious labor, service sector and daily wage work, as well as households with return migrants and income losses.
Furthermore, slowdown in all major sectors of the economy, viz. tourism, service and manufacturing sectors, increase the inflation and unemployment thereby affecting the nations most vulnerable and food insecure populations. These population are not only in the high food and nutrition insecure region, but also do not have sufficient disposable income to buy safe and nutritious foods to feed themselves and their family members.
Baliyo Nepal Nutrition Initiative, BNNI, has been established to initiate a social movement for improving the nutritional status of the nation through multi sector partnerships aligning private sectors.
BNNI supports the government’s multi sector nutrition plan II (MSNP II) to attain the stunting reduction targets in partnerships with the government, private sectors, civil societies, and external development partners.
Baliyo Nepal Nutritional Efforts
BNNI campaigns for demand creation of fortified porridge and eggs to improve the nutritional status of children in Province 5 before expanding the programs throughout the nation. With aim to lead the social movement to reduce stunting, it would be inappropriate for BNNI to stay inactive during the COVID crisis. This would not only ruin the credibility of the company but also prevent us to work effectively in the post-COVID Nepal.
Baliyo Nepal with their project concentrated in Lumbini Pradesh (Province 1) focuses to convince influencers, local governments and potential partners to engage in the pilot activities. This pre-pilot is an unique opportunity to understand the barriers and levers towards adopting a new, daily habit of feeding 6 to 23 months old babies with porridge.
Furthermore, with increasing lockdown due to COVID crisis, there has been a significant gap in activities of BNNI. Under this situation, the risk to lose momentum is high, and it is important BNNI takes initiative to keep the drum beat, especially among influencers and the public health community.
In many countries across the World, we have been observing multiple initiatives coming from the Private Sector to contribute to the national efforts against COVID. It doesn’t seem to happen in Nepal, and this is an opportunity to demonstrate one of BNNI’s most important contribution to the fight against malnutrition and COVID crisis: having the private sector join the battle, and being able to create public-private partnerships. This would also in turn re-build credibility and reputation for BNNI.
Baliyo Nepal Pre-pilot Program in Lumbini Pradesh
The regular BNNI program planned before the onset of COVID crisis aimed to create market demand of nutritious and affordable eggs and fortified porridge through several interventions. However, with COVID crisis and lockdown, one of the major risks identified include the potential change in the consumer priority.
With reduced disposable income, consumers may not prefer to buy fortified porridge. Thus, in this pre-pilot, BNNI would focus to
- Understand the behavior change of communities on the availability of fortified porridge
- Understand the effectiveness of fortified porridge on the nutritional status of children
BNNI has envisioned the pre-pilot as a sampling program where the families will participate in the research will have to “pay” for the porridge, not in cash, but by participating to the study. As the pre-pilot would be nearing to its end, communication will be done so that families are prepared to switch from a free mode to a paying one, when the Piloting activities start in the province.
Several governmental and non-governmental interventions across the country is moving forward to address the COVID crisis, and unconditional provision of food assistance is one of them. On continued discussion with several governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, BNNI has identified few municipalities in Province 5 as one of the most food-insecure regions.
The 6-23 months for infants is the longest period in the “first 1000 days” of life and has been considered a critical period for child development and reducing stunting. The complementary feeding practices, including complementary food and breastfeeding, during this period should be optimized to receive recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for this age group.
The municipalities such as Pratappur, Phalinandan, Sunawal, and Susta of Nawalparasi West, Bijaynagar of Kapilvastu, and Madhuban of Bardiya has been known to be highly food-insecure. The total population of these municipalities is 289,110 with children of 6-23 months of age around 10,000.
The overall objectives of this project is “to prepare for the pilot of Baliyo Nepal launch in Province 5 through, more specifically, the proposed activities aimed to:
- Meet the urgent food and nutrition needs of children 6-23 months of age
- Protect lives of these children while enabling safe access to food and nutrition
- Prevent deterioration of acute malnutrition among these children.
- Symbolic rapid response to nutrition at the time of pandemic focusing 6 – 23 months children
The response plans developed by the UN organizations during crisis and emergencies emphasize on the unconditional provision of food assistance. BNNI aims to provide nutritious complementary food assistance to 10,000 children of 6-23 months of age in these selected municipalities of Bardiya, Kapilvastu and Nawalparasi West. The food assistance will be in the form of fortified porridge.