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Renewable biogas provides clean, affordable energy for rural households in Nepal

Environmental Specialist Javaid Afzal demonstrates supervision practices of Bank staff as he inspects the internal workings of a biogas plant currently under construction.

Trecking through the remote and rugged mountainous areas of Nepal, it was evident to me that the abundance of natural beauty starkly contrasted with the scarcity of access to affordable and environmentally sustainable energy sources.

In Nepal, Most households still rely on traditional energy sources for cooking and heating, such as firewood or agriculture residue with few having access to electricity.

The high demand for firewood has created a number of environmental problems such as deforestation, soil degradation, and flooding. Firewood also requires considerable time for families to collect and its use results in indoor air pollution which particularly impacts women and children.

A solution has been the introduction of biogas as a way to bring cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy to rural households. It is created when animal and human waste are converted into clean sources of cooking fuel, replacing the need for wood, dried dung, and fossil fuel based sources of energy. Its byproduct can also be used as a natural fertilizer to increase agricultural yield.

World Bank Awards $840,000 for Grassroot Organizations to Fight Undernutrition

Joe Qian's picture

The Nutrition Development Marketplace was held in Dhaka on Wednesday August 5th. Twenty-one civil society organizations from across South Asia won grants from an $840,000 award pool funded by the South Asia Region Development Marketplace (DM). The winners received up to $40,000 each to implement innovative ideas on how to improve nutrition in their respective countries.

Titled “Family and Community Approaches to Improve Infant and Young Child Nutrition,” the competition was designed to identify some of the most innovative ideas to improve nutrition, focusing especially on children under two years of age and pregnant women.

South Asia has experienced high economic growth during the last decade. The region, however, still has both the highest rates and the largest numbers of undernourished children in the world. While poverty is often the underlying cause of child undernutrition, the high economic growth experienced by South Asian countries has not made an impact on the nutritional status of South Asian children.

Why South Asia has the largest numbers of undernourished and micronourished children in the world?

South Asia’s undernourishment problem has many numbers of factors, including the following: Low birth weight, infant and young child feeding practices, poor household hygiene, and status of women in society.

This video, A Call for Action, highlights some of the challenges and opportunities of undernutrition in the South Asia region with a focus on India.

Development Marketplace: My Tryst With Nutrition

Sundararajan Gopalan's picture

For more information on the Nutrition Development Marketplace, please see the accompanying Feature Story and Press Release

The year was 1975. I was a final year medical student in Pondicherry, South India. I was going for my practical test on Preventive and Social Medicine (PSM). PSM was (and probably still is) one of the least favorite subjects in the medical curriculum for most students. “Why should we prevent diseases? If we prevent all diseases what will we all do with our medical degrees? Isn’t that professional suicide?” asked one of my class-mates! But I digress. Coming back to the test, I was unusually nervous because I had not studied everything well. For some reason, one chapter that I did study the night before was nutrition. I had also volunteered for two months in a Nutrition Rehabilitation Center (NRC) which meant that it was one chapter that I was more confident about. As my luck would have it, every single question that the examiner asked me that day was on nutrition! I blasted my way through the test, and thanked my stars for that exceptional bit of good fortune. From that day, nutrition has always been close to my heart.

The NRC is a somewhat outdated concept nowadays. The idea was to have a malnourished child and mother live for a month in the NRC and learn good household behaviors that could result in better nutritional outcomes.

Of Perceptions and Reality

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
Reflections from the Padma. (c) Maitreyi Bordia Das

The widespread perception of Bangladesh as a mis-governed poor cousin continues and thrives in India. Stories in the media focus on fallen trade deals, undocumented migration and security hazards to India. Yet, not-so-recent articles by economist Jean Dreze and Minister of State Jairam Ramesh have pointed out that Bangladesh fares much better than India on a range of social outcomes.  But these are few and far between and don’t get the attention they deserve.

During my first visit to Bangladesh I remember being blown away by the villages. Toilets are common and in use, schools actually function and pools of dirty water don’t clog village paths. Take also the case of health. Although India spends twice as much per capita as Bangladesh on health care, it has worse outcomes in every health indicator except maternal mortality.

Thirsting for Social Change: Women, Agriculture, and a Stream of Opportunity

Brittney Davidson's picture

The cows were judging me. The unforgiving Indian summer sun was beating down on the crop field where I stood, and though I desperately wanted to listen the soft-spoken villager who was explaining the trials and accomplishments of his agriculturally centered village, my attention was pulled to the cattle several meters away. Perhaps I was dehydrated, perhaps a little woozy, but I am not proud to say that I could have sworn those grazing beasts were eyeing me, watching me wither under the intense gaze of the mid-afternoon sun. “Weakling,” They seemed to say.

And perhaps I was.

From my brief time spent in this rural, South Indian village, I had seen people deal with far more than the uncomfortable heat. These villagers like many throughout the rural areas of South Asia, worked long and tedious hours in their fields. Heat was not simply a discomfort, but could mean less water, less grass to feed the cattle, fewer crops, and, as a result, the inability to sustain spending on education, healthcare, and sanitation.

Bouncing Babies and Safe Motherhood in Sri Lanka

Chulie De Silva's picture
Photo Credit: (c) Chulie De Silva

Reading the story today of Sri Lanka’s emergence as a success story in safer childbirth with a remarkable decline in maternal deaths, I mused about how I took for granted that childbirth would be safe when I had my children way back in the early 70’s. It was joy unlimited as I breezed through pregnancies always under the stern but very caring eye of my GP, Dr. Navaratnam. The news today that Sri Lanka should be held as an example for other South Asian countries makes me very grateful for the high quality of medical care that was available to us.

Presenting a paper at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, UK, South Asia Day, Dr Hemantha Senanayake, from the University of Colombo, said the “mortality ratio of Sri Lanka has declined dramatically as a direct result of the availability of midwives and trained assistance. “In 1960, the child mortality was 340 per 100,000; however, it was lowered to 43 per 100,000 live births in 2005.”

South Asian Enigma: Why has high economic growth not reduced malnutrition?

Sadiq Ahmed's picture

South Asia has the highest rates of malnutrition and the largest numbers of undernourished children in the world! Poverty is often the underlying cause of child malnutrition, and while South Asia has recently experienced impressive economic growth and reduced poverty, this has not translated into improved nutrition. The region fares worse than any other developing region including Sub-Saharan Africa (45% vs. 28%, respectively).

The Silver Lining

Shanta Devarajan's picture
In late February of every year, I get ready to be disappointed by the budget speech of the Indian Finance Minister. The reason is that, despite ample evidence that there are serious problems with the productivity of public spending in health, education and other areas, the budget speech always announces an increase in spending on these sectors, with little attempt—if any—at making that spending more efficient at reaching poor people.

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