Nepal makes notable progress on the MDGs, eradicating inequality and social exclusion remain major challenges

07 Sep 2010

imageNepal makes notable progress on the MDGs, eradicating inequality and social exclusion remain major challenges

Nepal makes notable progress on the MDGs, eradicating inequality and social exclusion remain major challenges

September 07, 2010

Nepal makes notable progress on the MDGs, eradicating inequality and social exclusion remain major challenges Kathmandu 7 September 2010: Nepal is close to achieving several of the eight globally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 related to poverty, education, health and environmental sustainability. This is especially impressive given the country is emerging from a decade-long conflict and political instability.

While there is striking progress in reducing poverty, in getting children into school and in saving the lives of children and mothers the national averages continue to mask significant disparities between ethnic, social and economic groups, amongst rural and urban populations and people living in the mountains, in remote areas and in the Terai (plains).

Two thirds of the way towards the 2015 MDG finishing line, the country should focus on eradicating inequality and social exclusion to achieve the MDGs and to sustain peace.

According to the country's third MDG Report, released today, poverty came down to 25.4 percent in 2009 from 42 percent in 1996. The gains have been most impressive in the last five years with a 5 percent drop in poverty. Yet a quarter of the population still lives below the national poverty line and inequality is increasing. The proportion of working poor ' people who are working but earn less than a dollar a day ' is more than one in five. On hunger, the picture is grim with close to 40 percent of children below the age of five underweight.

There is, however, good news on primary education with enrolment rates at 93.7% and parity in the ratio of girls to boys. However, the gender gap remains high in some regions like the Terai where fewer girls than boys are enrolled. Also, Nepal has already achieved the 2015 target of bringing down the undernourished population from 49 percent to 25 percent.

Over 200.000 children are estimated to be out of school and those who are out of the education system are the most marginalized and hardest to reach says the Report.

Fewer infants and under-five children are dying in Nepal today, with significant improvements between 2001 and 2006. By 2009, the infant mortality rate is estimated to have dropped to 41 per 1,000 live births from 109 per 1000 live births in 1990 and the under-five mortality rate is 50 per 1,000 live births down from 162 in 1990. The country is on track to achieve this goal says the Report.

However, there are stark disparities. The chances of surviving up to age five are more than seven times higher for children born to mothers with high school or higher education -- 13 per 1,000 live births, as compared to children born to mothers with no education, at a high 93 per 1,000 live births.

The Report points to similar disparities in the chances of women surviving childbirth 'significant disparities are observed between women living in cities and those living in the hills, between those with higher levels of education, wealth and higher caste and those disadvantaged by poverty, caste or ethnic identity. The maternal health goal is likely to be met and maternal mortality rates are down from 850 in 1990 to an estimated 229 per 100,000 live births in 2010.

While releasing the report Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel, Vice-Chairman, National Planning Commission said, 'Enhancing employment opportunities and reducing inequality and social exclusion remain major challenges. It is imperative that all of the country's people reap the benefits of development, including the hard to-reach poor and those living in remote and inaccessible areas, where delivering services is especially difficult. The well-being of those who are hardest hit by discrimination, exclusion, poverty and unemployment, is a major concern.'

The more complex goals and targets that are not on track are full and productive employment for all and reducing green house gas emissions to halt climate change. Significant challenges also remain in areas like reducing hunger, women's empowerment, protecting biodiversity and in providing access to clean water and sanitation.

At the launch of the Report, Robert Piper, UN Resident Coordinator for Nepal asked, 'Has Nepal got what it takes for a sprint on the final stretch to the MDG 2015 finish-line' We know what needs to happen to turn these indicators around for good ' sound policies that are sustained from one year to the next, clear roles and responsibilities for all those involved, greater resources directed to the community level for allocation and oversight, and a laser-focus on results. Nepal has shown the way on maternal and infant mortality - let's apply the lessons to hunger, water, sanitation, and inequality.'

'Macro-economic indicators, especially over the last two years, show serious weaknesses. The balance-of-payments deficit continues, with weak fiscal discipline, dependency on imports for increased revenue, and an unfavourable investment environment' says the report.

According to the report, the gap between 'haves' and 'have-nots' is also increasing. The Gini Coefficient, which provides a measure for income inequality, increased from 0.34 in 1996 to 0.41 in 2004 and recent estimates have shown that it has further increased to 0.46 in 2008/09.

To address the challenge of social inclusion the Report recommends that, 'the government should make the redistribution of benefits, social justice, and mainstreaming of marginalized populations and geographic areas its overarching goal.'

'Food insecurity is a major problem for many Nepali people. High dependence on traditional agriculture, low productivity, small landholdings, limited off-farm and wage-earning opportunities, low wages/incomes, and various deep-rooted structural discriminations and exclusions are major factors causing food insecurity at the household level. The geographic terrain combined with lack of basic infrastructure and access to new technology make it virtually impossible for some areas to be food-sufficient in the foreseeable future' the report highlights.

The Report also recommends a greater focus on reviving agriculture with investments in rural infrastructure and public works, create a better environment for private-sector investment, reduce trade imbalances with major trading partners, and better utilization of foreign aid.

With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York on 20-22 September to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.

Contact Information

Sangita Khadka, Development Communications Officer, UNDP Nepal
Tel: 00-977-1- 5523200 ext 1077 email: sangita.khadka@undp.org