There are reports the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) is scaling down its operations in Nepal – one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, as well as one of the hungriest.
The organisation says a lack of funds is the reason behind the difficult decision.
According to UN figures, more than half the population lives on less than $1.18 a day.
Half of all Nepali children under five years old are stunted or chronically undernourished.
The UN says in many Nepalese communities the rate of acute malnutrition is more than 15 per cent, which is the emergency threshold.
To make matters worse, food inflation rates reached 18 per cent in 2010.
The WFP has been providing food assistance to about one million people in Nepal, but that will be scaled back dramatically to 100,000 by the end of the year.
The need for assistance is seen to have lessened after the signing of a peace agreement in the country four years ago.
The WFP’s spokeswoman in Kathmandu, Christina Hobbs, says the drop also has to do with donor nations’ cashflow.
“This is sort of in line with tightened funding constraints following the global financial crisis,” she said.
Ms Hobbs admits that in the short-term this will have some serious consequences.
“One of the major first events that will happen is that we’re going to have to scale down air operations. So as we know Nepal is a very, very mountainous country and we’ve been operating helicopters to reach some of these really tucked up communities in the Himalayas,” she said.
“Unfortunately it will mean that we’ll have to completely take away our helicopter operation here, which means we have to rely on a supply train of mules, porters, trucks, tractors to get the food there. So unfortunately some of those most remotest communities will be very hard to reach.
“It’ll also mean that we really have to scale down just to meet those people who we think are in absolute immediate need or at risk of starvation basically.”
Ms Hobbs says in these remote areas child mortality is high and the average life expectancy is in the 40s, and that without the WFP these conditions will continue unabated.
But one Nepali NGO says moves to scale back the food program may improve quality of life for some farmers, who have grown too dependent on aid.
Sarbray Ksadka, the director of Rural Reconstruction Nepal, a Nepalese NGO, says while the sudden nature of the withdrawal is not ideal, some Nepalese have grown too dependent on the goods supplied by the WFP.
He says rice is a culturally prestigious food in Nepal and because the WFP distributes rice, people have stopped farming more traditional crops.
“This is mainly the locally grown food such as buckwheat, barley, millet, potatoes and other kinds of crops,” he said.
The UN WFP says it will now focus on longer term development, which it says should be led by the Nepalese people.