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NEPAL: Still low on global poverty index

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  Naresh Newar/IRIN

The conflict in Nepal has been instrumental in keeping the country at the bottom of key poverty indices

KATHMANDU, 13 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Latest figures from the 2005 Human Development Report (HDR) indicate Nepal continues to languish at the bottom of the global human poverty index. The Himalayan kingdom’s infant mortality rate is the third highest in the world, with nearly 30,000 children dying each year during their first month of life.

“Nepal stands at a crossroads today. The country is facing a very serious crisis: recent advances in development are being threatened and eroded by conflict and instability,” said Ghulam Isaczai, deputy head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nepal, during the launch of the report on Tuesday.

Maoist rebels have been waging an armed campaign against the state for the last nine years. A recent ceasefire has rekindled hopes for a peace settlement.

Published annually by UNDP, this year’s HDR entitled ‘International Cooperation at a Crossroads – Aid, Trade and Security in an Unequal World,’ emphasised the need for more resources and fundamental reform of international aid to meet poverty goals.

The report challenges the popular notion that more aid only increases dependency by poor countries. On the contrary, properly targeted aid actually advances human development, it asserted.

Even in Nepal’s case, aid has helped to bring effective intervention programmes especially in the health and education sector. Anti-tuberculosis, as well as immunisation and vaccination health campaigns, have saved millions of lives in Nepal, according to health experts.

The report had already been presented to heads of state and the government on 7 September, one week before Wednesday’s key UN summit in New York, where progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be debated.

“While there has been substantial overall progress globally, many individual countries are actually falling further behind,” said a UNDP press release on the report.

Nepal is ranked 136th out of 177 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI), a slight improvement over 2004 - when it was ranked 140th. But Nepal has fallen five places behind from its 2004 Human Poverty Index (HPI) from 69th to 74th this year. The HPI focuses on the proportion of people living below a threshold level in basic dimensions of human development—living a long and healthy life, access to education and a decent income level.

The link between poverty and violent conflict was also highlighted in the HDR. “Conflict undermines nutrition and public health, destroys education systems, devastates livelihoods and retards prospects of economic growth,” it said.

The report noted that of the 32 countries at the bottom of the HDI, 22 have experienced conflict at some point since 1990. It said, “Violent conflict is one of the surest and fastest routes to the bottom of the HDI table and a strong indicator for a protracted stay there.”

“The conflict [in Nepal] has led to deepening poverty in both affected areas and nationally,” said Isaczai, who added that the rebellion has stunted development work, caused considerable destruction to private and public property, displaced populations internally and reduced agricultural production and food security.

“It is very essential to restore peace and stability for any kind of development to be sustained,” remarked Isaczai.

“We have to move fast if we want to tackle poverty,” said Sriram Raj Pande, who heads the UNDP’s pro-poor policy initiative in Nepal.


 Theme(s) Children
Other recent NEPAL reports:

Soldier kills 12 civilians,  15/Dec/05

Maoists ceasefire extension welcomed,  2/Dec/05

UN appeals for US $4.7 billion in life-saving aid,  2/Dec/05

Government crackdown on broadcast media continues,  29/Nov/05

Rebels and political parties unite to oust king,  24/Nov/05

Other recent Children reports:

SIERRA LEONE: With no prospects, youths are turning to crime and violence, 22/Dec/05

SENEGAL: Everyman’s library, 21/Dec/05

LIBERIA: UN renews ban on arms, diamonds and timber, 21/Dec/05

NIGERIA: Eight children die in attack on oil pipeline, 21/Dec/05

NIGER: Campaign targets double threat of polio and malaria, 21/Dec/05

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