Nine out of every 10 children in Nepal suffers some form of malnutrition. Paradoxically, it’s because malnutrition is so widespread that it’s also invisible. This is particularly true of protein energy malnutrition, or PEM – a condition officially defined as being short for age, and underweight for age, but which, in reality, is a devastating intergenerational cycle of lost potential, both physical and mental. Undersize young mothers give birth to low birth weight babies who develop into small children who start bearing children when they are just out of childhood themselves, and on and on. This Life episode visits Gayatri, a community mobilizer in Achham, a remote rural region in western Nepal. Just 20 years old, Gayatri is eight months pregnant with her second child. Her job is to help other mothers to identify children who are not developing properly, to analyse the reasons why, and work on solutions together. For some this has been successful, for others – trapped by the caste system and the struggle for mere survival – knowing that their child has PEM is as far as they can go. Doing something about it is beyond their control. A Fistful of Rice unravels the complex causes and effects of Protein Energy Malnutrition through the stories of people in Nepal who live with it on a daily basis – migrant workers trapped at the bottom of the cash economy in Kathmandu and subsistence farmers in the remote western hill village of Gohilapani.
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