New Zealand to help children in Nepal

New Zealand is to make a sizeable contribution to ease hardship and improve the lives of children living in Nepal, Aid Minister Marian Hobbs announced today.

"NZAID, our international aid and development agency, will give $350,000 to help fund two World Food Programme projects in Nepal," Marian Hobbs said.

"New Zealand and Nepal have a close bond, which is evident through the tremendous work of Sir Edmund Hillary and his Himalayan Trust. This new funding will assist in ensuring continued progress towards Sir Ed's vision for the children of Nepal.

"Nepal is one of the poorest nations in South Asia, with 42 per cent of its population (22 million) living below the poverty line; 91 out of every 1000 children die before five years of age -- a terrible statistic and a sign that the international community needs to act.

"Education and health are essential for children to achieve their potential and the Food for Education project supports both, by providing nutritious meals to all children attending school. The project covers 450,000 primary school children of 4,200 schools in 21 districts across Nepal.

"Another aspect of the project is a take-home food incentive provided to mothers whose girl children attend school regularly. It is estimated that 135,000 girls benefit currently from the take-home incentive.

"Getting girls into school and keeping them there are both absolute necessities if we want to make a real difference in the fight against poverty. NZAID already supports education programmes in Nepal via partnerships with the Himalayan Trust and UNICEF.

"The political and security situation in Nepal has continued to deteriorate over the last year and this is making it increasingly difficult and dangerous for international agencies to deliver assistance in Nepal.

"The New Zealand funding will help strengthen the World Food Programme's ability to respond in difficult situations.

"The focus of this work will be on maintaining regular programmes, like the Food for Education project, while also preparing to respond to any crisis type situation which may occur," Marian Hobbs said.