Nestling between Tibet and India, Nepal is a country of 28 million people. It is a country of great beauty, from the overwhelming Himalayas in the north, to the architecturally rich Royal Cities including the capital Kathmandu in the centre, to tropical forests in the south. Nepal is home to over sixty ethnic groups, the majority of the population relying on subsistence farming. Nepal is the 16th poorest country in the world and the second poorest in Asia (after Afghanistan) in terms of per capita income. 23% of the population live on less than $1.25 a day. The poorest people live in the inaccessible west of the country or are from the dalit (untouchable) caste. High unemployment means that about 1,500 Nepalis migrate for work every day to countries such as the Gulf states, Malaysia and India. Nepal is ranked 145th in the world in the Human Development Index, a situation which has not improved significantly since emerging from conflict in 2006.
Health in Nepal is poor by international standards. Leading diseases and illnesses include diarrhoea, goitre, intestinal parasites, leprosy and tuberculosis. Nepal also has high rates of child malnutrition and under-five mortality. Health-care facilities, hygiene and sanitation generally are poor and beyond the means of most, particularly in rural areas. Provision of health services is constrained by low government spending, rugged terrain, and lack of health education (which lowers the demand for health services).
Real Nepal Experience 2020
In March 2020, Carmel Dersch, Chair of So the Child May Live, accompanied by a group of our supporters, headed to Nepal for a charity trek and visited Kanti Hospital.
This film shares their experience, with photos that capture the beauty of Nepal and its people and an insight into Kanti Children’s Hospital.
The distance from one place to another is measured in ‘days walk’ or ‘days on the bus’. Healthcare is not free, and for many the option of travelling to Kathmandu to seek healthcare is beyond their means. Most hospitals are located in urban areas, and rural health facilities often lack adequate funding, trained staff, and medicines. District Medical offices provide a basic level of healthcare but many people cannot afford or simply do not seek this, so there are many illnesses compared to that seen in the western world.
Life expectancy in Nepal is 59 Years and around 40% of the population is less than 14 years old. Infant Mortality is around 70 deaths per 1000 births. 59% of the population has access to safe drinking water. 50% of the population consumes less than 30% of recommended calorie intake.
In April and May 2015 Nepal suffered two major earthquakes. The first, occurring 50 miles north-west of Kathmandu, was recorded as the worst natural disaster to affect Nepal in over 80 years. It is estimated that over 22,000 people were injured and that nearly 9,000 lost their lives. The impact of the earthquake was particularly devastating given Nepal’s already weak infrastructure and the fact that many people live in informal accommodation. It is estimated that over half a million homes were destroyed and damage caused to roads and bridges made delivering aid to the affected regions challenging.
Poorly constructed multi-story brick buildings and temples in and around Kathmandu were reduced to rubble. Brick is the go-to building material there because the Kathmandu Valley has many brick works. However, poor construction practices meant older buildings often lacked steel reinforcements and adequate foundations. Heavy bricks made the buildings deadly when they fell. Mountainous rural areas with poor infrastructure suffered even worse. Whole villages collapsed; their houses made of stacked stones or timbers and mud were no match for the destructive force of landslides, avalanches, and shaking. Nepal still remains at risk of a catastrophic earthquake.
What made the quakes so devastating was not Nepal’s location on the fault line, but rather the man-made conditions of poor construction, overcrowding and a population already challenged by a lack of food, shelter and an infrastructure capable of delivering needed supplies.
Following successful elections in late 2017, Nepal is now implementing its new Federal Constitution, agreed following the 10-year civil war. The Constitution has the potential to give more Nepalese an economic and political stake in the country’s future and strengthen the foundations of both stability and prosperity.