IsraAID Responds to Global Crises
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, the nonprofit organization IsraAID responds to global crises, such as natural disasters and poverty, and sends teams of volunteers to help those in need. After its founding in 2001, IsraAID responded to crises in over 50 different countries. Its expertise in crisis relief includes emergency aid distributions, pinpoint trauma support and prevention training for local government and non-government professionals. These are some of the global crises IsraAID has responded to:

Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines

IsraAID sent its first mission to the Philippines after Typhoon Ketsana in 2009. Working in collaboration with local partner Operation Blessing International, IsraAID dispatched a team of nurses and doctors to assist in the emergency medical operations. In 2013, another typhoon devastated the Philippines, killing over 6,000 people, injuring more than 28,000 and affecting over 16 million people overall. IsraAID responded within 48 hours with its medical team on the ground less than four days after the event. It spent the first three days of its efforts assisting the local health workers in one of the many hospitals the typhoon had destroyed. After that, IsraAID spent the next two years operating with the local government, instigating programs in medical support, psychotherapy and the rebuilding of the fallen cities.

Earthquake in Nepal

After a major earthquake left Nepal in ruins back in 2015, IsraAID sent a team to help the local police force locate survivors and provide emergency medical treatment. This was a relief to the local authorities and medical personnel outnumbered by the number of injuries and the chaos that ensued. Working alongside the authorities and an emergency response from the Israeli Defense Forces, IsraAID volunteers risked their lives to save and treat the survivors who the rubble had trapped. IsraAID not only provided the immediate essentials of food, water, shelter and medical aid to the Nepalese but also focused its efforts on long-term recovery via farming, fishing and a new supply of clean water. It also provided psychosocial services to the victims, helping them cope with and build resilience in the wake of the tragedy.

The Dadaab Refugee Camp and Famine in Kenya

Since 2007, IsraAID has been sending emergency relief teams to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya—the largest refugee camp in the world—to aid the victims running from violence and famine. Later in 2011, when a drought caused one of the worst famines to ever strike the Horn of Africa, IsraAID returned to Kenya with a distribution of food and relief items for the refugees and locals still suffering from hunger and chaos. It also offered that same assistance to the people of Turkana, Kenya’s poorest county. IsraAID has maintained a steady presence in Kenya since 2013, helping those in poverty and the refugee camp with medical treatment, water management and psychosocial support.

Refugee Crisis in Greece

During the refugee crisis in 2015, IsraAID responded by sending a team of volunteers to Greece. Special mobile units provided immediate medical and psychosocial aid, distributed supplies and identified particularly vulnerable groups, such as children. IsraAID volunteers also rescued refugees whose boats had capsized and provided sleeping bags to anyone who had to sleep on the ground. Throughout the crisis, the volunteers provided food, clothing, medicine and hygiene kits to the refugees, as well as psychotherapy training to the local government and non-government professionals so that it could better care for the traumatized population.

Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria devastated the Puerto Rican population in 2017, IsraAID responded with a Spanish-fluent team of psychosocial and medical support, as well as experts in water and sanitation. At the time, the country’s poverty rate was 43.5 percent and the unemployment rate at 10.3 percent, on top of 95 percent of the populace losing electricity as a result of the storm. IsraAID provided emergency relief programs in the distribution of food, water and basic supplies, medical treatment and mental support. The team then shifted focus to long-term recovery and implemented a system to provide water and sanitation to the people of Puerto Rico.

The aforementioned countries and many others have benefitted greatly from IsraAID’s support, and IsraAID responds to global crises to this day. The organization has even established ongoing training programs for water management, psychosocial services and other relief efforts in the countries listed above, as well as in Japan, South Korea, Haiti, Jordan and South Sudan. As IsraAID responds to global crises, those in need have a chance to lead better lives.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in NepalThe Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has an estimated population of more than 26 million and is known for its mountain peaks that include the legendary Mount Everest. Agriculture in Nepal is a major aspect of the economy, employing more than 66 percent of the workforce. Because so many of Nepal’s citizens rely on agriculture for their income, many economic development initiatives in Nepal are focused on efficient, sustainable agricultural practices. Here are four organizations supporting agriculture in Nepal:

4 Organizations Supporting Agriculture in Nepal

  1. Educate the Children – Founded by Pamela Carson in 1989, Educate the Children Nepal (ETC) focuses on three main goals: children’s education, women’s empowerment and agricultural development. ETC’s agricultural programs assist rural Nepali women in furthering their knowledge of sustainable practices. Women learn methods for composting and for making pesticides. ETC also provides tools and seeds so that women can expand their crops. Importantly, the organization tailors its methods to different regions, emphasizing locally viable crops. In the first half of 2019, ETC reports that 31 rural women were able to increase their household income by 10 to 25 percent by growing and selling mushrooms.
  2. FORWARD Nepal – The Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development (FORWARD) has been working to aid Nepalis living in poverty since 1997. Committed to promoting economic equality, FORWARD provides vocational training for workers in several industries, including forestry, fishing and agriculture. Its website emphasizes an intent to “utilize and promote local knowledge and skills” and to develop community organizations and resource centers. Some of FORWARD’s agricultural programs have included distributing seeds to earthquake victims, training people to cultivate dry riverbeds and promoting climate-smart rice-lentil cropping systems. In the fiscal year 2017-2018, FORWARD Nepal’s riverbed farming program reached 200 households and its rice-fallow crop program benefited 459. The same year, the organization ran a project focused on dairy production techniques, which reached an estimated 5,000 households.
  3. U.N. Women – The Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment (RWEE) Joint Programme is a collaboration between U.N. Women, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.  The RWEE program is focused on supporting rural women in seven countries, including Nepal. According to U.N. Women, the program supports 3,400 women. One RWEE project involved water access in the village of Paltuwa where water scarcity had resulted in women farmers devoting large portions of their day to carrying water to their farms from the river. As a consequence, crop yields were low and farmers struggled economically. A 2016 RWEE project resulted in the building of an irrigation system in Paltuwa, which has improved agricultural production. The RWEE program also employs women to work on construction projects related to agriculture. During the building of the Community Agriculture Extension Service Centre in Ranichuri, 130 women were employed.
  4. SADP-Nepal – Established in 2004, Sustainable Agriculture Development Program, Nepal (SADP-Nepal) is headquartered in Pokhara, Nepal. SADP-Nepal promotes sustainable agricultural practices, lobbies for organic agriculture and supports collaboration among farmers. The organization’s motto, “Happy Soil, Happy Life,” shows an emphasis on sustainable practices. Some of the SADP-Nepal’s projects include community farms, awareness-raising campaigns and disaster-relief programs. In the wake of the April 2015 earthquake, SADP-Nepal provided rice, lentils, noodles and tents to thirteen families affected by the earthquake. SADP-Nepal also promotes eco-tourism as a way to generate income for local farmers by providing organic food for visitors.

Final Thoughts

While many Nepalis struggle economically, the poverty rate has been decreasing in recent years, dropping from 25 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2018. With continued support for agricultural workers, hopefully, the economic situation in Nepal will continue to improve.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Wikimedia

Poverty in Nepal
Straddled by two of Asia’s growing giants, India and China, Nepal features vast, mountainous landscapes and people from diverse ethnic cultures. However, the nation remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Here are 15 facts about poverty in Nepal.

15 Facts About Poverty in Nepal

  1. Poverty Rate: Twenty-five percent of the Nepali population lived below the poverty line in 2011. However, the country has seen a significant improvement compared to a rate of 41.8 percent in 1996 and 30.9 percent in 2004.
  2. Malnourishment: High food prices and limited access to farming in rural areas contribute to hunger in Nepal. Around 5 million people in Nepal do not have sufficient nourishment. Additionally, more than 85 percent of people rely on small scale agriculture as their main form of sustenance.
  3. Civil War: Nepal experienced a civil war between 1996 and 2006, the effects of which the country still feels today. Conflict within a country often coincides with increasing poverty rates, as it limits the transportation of resources, health care access and a healthy job market.
  4. Corruption: Nepal’s government holds a reputation for being corrupt. Abuse of authority leads to an unfair economic system and unequal distribution of resources thereby perpetuating the issue of poverty in Nepal. Countries often feel the effects of corrupt government bureaucracy during natural disasters.
  5. Natural Disasters: Natural disasters have heavily afflicted Nepal, such as the 2015 earthquake which destroyed infrastructure, homes and economic growth. An already struggling economy and little political stability often exacerbate the effects of earthquakes in Nepal. Between the main earthquake in 2015 and the aftershock that came two weeks later, 8,970 lost their lives and 22,303 people became seriously injured. Estimates determine that the total value of the damages from the earthquake and aftershock are equivalent to $7 billion.
  6. Infant Mortality Rates: A lack of health care and access to education in impoverished regions, for which there are many in Nepal, contribute to high infant mortality rates. In 2016, for every 1,000 children born in Nepal, 34 died before their fifth birthday.
  7. Geography: The geography of this country makes it difficult to effectively alleviate poverty. As a landlocked and mountainous region, the development and transportation of resources are cumbersome in Nepal. Furthermore, Nepal experiences political pressures from neighboring countries that can interfere with resource distribution.
  8. Infrastructure: Nepal’s roads are often in rough condition and the seasons heavily affect them. Delays, flat tires and small spaces are common. Because of their rural location, distance and terrain isolate much of Nepal’s population from employment and economic opportunities. Lack of basic infrastructure and access to transportation services makes it difficult for those in poverty to access markets and services.
  9. Agriculture: A lack of advanced farming methods also makes it hard for the country to make progress against poverty. Eighty percent of Nepal’s population lives in rural areas. In 2017, agriculture made up nearly one-third of the Himalayan country’s GDP. Additionally, over 85 percent of its people relied on agriculture as their main form of sustenance. However, outdated methods are slowing the farming pace, and Nepal’s government continually fails to provide proper infrastructure to farmers.
  10. Education: Prior to 1951, only members of the upper class received an education. Since then, the Nepali government began expanding the reach of education. However, when the country introduced private education, the gap between rich and poor children only widened. Poor children still have low rates of access to education and many children leave school to work or help at home. Nepal as a whole has a literacy rate of only 65 percent. Furthermore, the quality of education remains low, as the teachers themselves often have very little schooling.
  11. Forced Labor and Human Trafficking: Nepal is a source, transit and destination country for forced labor and human traffickers. Lack of education for women and children leave them particularly vulnerable. Many women will agree to marriages through matchmaking companies and find themselves in a domestic slavery situation instead. In desperation, parents will allow people to take their children in exchange for education opportunities. However, these children often end up in false orphanages to garner donations from tourists.
  12. Sanitation: Access to basic sanitation is still a major problem in Nepal. Nearly 10.8 million people are without access to basic sanitation and 16 percent of the population practices open defecation. Organizations such as the Global Hope Network have sought to educate inhabitants of villages about the health issues associated with these systems, and have begun building more sanitary infrastructure in places without access to toilets.
  13. Rice Production and Economic Growth: In 2017, Nepal produced 5.2 million tons of rice, the most ever recorded. This helped the country grow economically by 7.5 percent and greatly reduced its poverty levels. During this same time period, Nepali foreign workers sent significant amounts of remittances and inflation rates stabilized for the time being.
  14. SAMBHAV: There are many nonprofits working to alleviate poverty in Nepal from the ground up. Organizations such as SAMBHAV are beginning with the education system. This group has reconstructed schools and moved them to more convenient locations in order to increase attendance. SAMBHAV also renovates and rebuilds schools so that students can study in modern, clean and safe classrooms, often adding sanitation facilities where they did not previously exist.
  15. Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity is also working on the ground in Nepal to address the housing crisis. Currently, the organization, alongside its partners, is building 2.3 houses per hour.

The issues contributing to these facts about poverty in Nepal are many, but the country is making progress. The country’s poverty rate has seen significant improvement over the past two decades, and recent economic successes should continue that trend, leading to a better quality of life for more and more Nepalis. Efforts of volunteers and nonprofit organizations have the potential to make a big difference. These 15 facts about poverty in Nepal highlight the various issues that contribute to the problem and the impact they have on the country.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women Through Local Libraries
Digital literacy, career training and access to the internet are all becoming more commonplace throughout the developing world. While the majority of the population reaps the benefits of these programs, however, some certain groups, particularly women, are staggering behind. In order to combat this, various organizations have taken a unique and innovative approach in sharing these essential resources and empowering women through local libraries.

READ Centers in Nepal

In countries like Nepal, the men in women’s lives often control their level of education, knowledge of finance and mobility. These men expect women to ask permission to leave their own homes and women must always have male accompaniment when they do. This lack of personal freedom makes it hard for these women to know how to go about making their own decisions. Luckily, organizations like READ Global aim to circumvent such barriers with innovative programs with the hope of empowering women through local libraries.

READ Global, a nonprofit organization in South Asia, achieves this by creating safe centers for women through local libraries in Nepal. Known as READ Centers, these places not only provide free educational and financial programs, but they also provide a safe, public spot for women to gather and learn.

Livelihood skills training and other offered lessons enable women to pursue careers like beekeeping, sewing and vegetable farming. When women have the opportunity to earn and save for themselves, they become empowered to distribute their money in ways they see fit. A 2010 study indicated that the ability to earn their own income positively affects women’s autonomy and READ Centers programs have supported this finding.

Eighty-six percent of women who participated in the center’s skills-training programs reported that they were able to increase their income after taking the training classes. In the same survey, 73 percent of participants reported being able to buy their own food, 68 percent reported easier access to health care and an amazing 63 percent of all participants could afford to send their children off to school after completing one of the training programs. READ Centers are a striking model of empowering women through local libraries with innovative and affordable programs.

The National Library of Uganda (ICT) Project

A case study indicated that 83 percent of Ugandan women work in the farming and agricultural industry. This means that women alone contribute 70 to 75 percent of farm produce in the country. Since women are responsible for such a large chunk of the farming industry, it is quite alarming that most of these women have extremely limited access to modern farming resources. One library in Uganda saw the need for these resources and made empowering women through local libraries a top priority.

Kyangatto, a rural village in Uganda, serves as a hub for the farming community of the Nakaseke district. In this particular village, women carry the majority of the farming workload and must depend on traditional farming techniques. The women’s reliance on less effective farming methods stems from limited access to information about modern farming, plant and animal disease, and knowledge of market prices.

To combat this deficit in information, The NLU (National Library of Uganda) collaborated with the Nakaseke district’s multi-purpose community telecenter on a project that could provide proper resources and offer solutions for these challenges. In 2012, the partnering organizations launched The Electronic Information Empowering Women Farmers Service (EIFL). Through this service, women could participate in an information and communication course, which included computer/internet researching skills training, and a feature that sends farmers educational messages to mobile devices via SMS in various languages, including Luganda, a native language to a majority of participants.

The partner organizations also benefited greatly from a generous grant of $15,000 from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme. Through the grant, they were able to purchase four new computers and 15 mobile phones for trainees. Among other accomplishments, the program developed the first-ever women’s ICT training course in the Nakaseke district and trained 64 female farmers in digital literacy for the first time. The service has also expanded to Bulkalabi Primary School in Kyangatto, has successfully organized follow-up courses for 60 previous participants and recently registered 15 men in the program due to community demand.

While there is a lot of work necessary to improve life for women in the developing world, local libraries and the innovative programs they are launching have made a huge impact already. In fact, empowering women through local libraries has become a global trend that continues to grow.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Rural Nepal
In the shadow of the Himalayas, the infrastructure of health care in rural Nepal is often at the mercy of inadequate roads that extreme weather can make inaccessible. Despite these struggles, Nepal has lowered its maternal mortality rate from 539 women in every 100,000 live births in 1996 to 239 in 2016 thanks in part to telemedicine.

It was not until 1950 that Nepal began investing in road systems. While still poor, its road infrastructure is most central to development since the country has a declining railway network and air travel is expensive. Corruption and inadequate quality control measures have stymied infrastructure growth.

Natural Disasters and Nepal’s Health Care Facilities

While infrastructure development has improved, the two 2015 earthquakes, both with magnitudes over seven, destroyed 90 percent of health facilities in the immediate area because people did not build the facilities with disaster preparedness in mind. This disaster killed over 9,000 people and displaced 2,000,000.

Such dramatic geography and inadequate infrastructure development have made health care unaffordable and inaccessible for the majority of people. For example, 90 percent of women in the wealthiest quintile delivered their babies in health facilities compared with only 34 percent in the lowest quintile.

Effective Broadband for Health Program

The Internet Society Nepal Chapter and Center for Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) have implemented the Effective Broadband for Health program. This is a pilot program in rural Dullu, a hard to reach community in mid-western Nepal and has become possible with support from the Beyond the Net Funding Programme. The expansion of broadband is improving health care in rural Nepal.

To get to Dullu, visitors must fly from Kathmandu to Surkhet and then take a dirt four-wheel-drive road 80 kilometers. Dullu’s hospital often does not have enough people and supplies. Lack of funding coupled with harsh winters and poor road infrastructure have made medical supply and staff deliveries very challenging. These problems endanger the lives of Dullu’s 45,000 residents. Many residents are a two to three-day walk from the nearest hospital on trails which people cannot access in the rainy season.

Before video conferencing or the implementation of other internet-based modalities, those behind Effective Broadband for Health first had to amplify the signal from Surkhet to reach Dullu. Pavan Singh Shakya, Executive Director of ICT4D and project manager asserts that “A community healthcare system underpinned by a robust, high-speed Internet access for these communities is the only lifeline.”

After ensuring proper internet connectivity, Effective Broadband for Health stocked Dullu’s community health center with two multiservice portable health kits. These kits store medical records and allow personnel to remotely track diagnoses. The kit has basic diagnostic tools that capture and transfer data via Bluetooth to Dhulikhel Hospital about 700 kilometers away. With this technology, care providers on the ground in Dullu can have real-time consults with medical specialists thus improving health care in rural Nepal.

Telehealth for Women and Girls

One study suggests that telehealth has particular benefits for the wellness of women and girls since it reduces the amount of time it takes to consult with a doctor. Ossified gender norms have confined Nepali women to certain activities and largely restricted their movements to their local community. For example, women must fetch all fuel and water for their family’s needs and enterprises. This labor takes a great deal of time and energy; as such, if medical care is the three-day walk away, they are unlikely to seek it out even if it is necessary.

Societal expectations in Nepal dictate that women must be married in order to seek reproductive or sexual advice from a physician. Since women can be anonymous over mobile phones, more have begun to discuss their sexual and reproductive health with medical providers. These discussions are reducing maternal mortality and improving health care in rural Nepal.

The Chaupadi Practice

Even though access has improved, women in rural Nepal are still dying from practices such as chaupadi. Chaupadi derives from two Hindu words chau meaning menstruation and padi meaning women; it operates under the assumption that menstruating women are impure. During menstruation, women in some areas must sleep separately in a tiny hut called a goth with little food and few blankets for warmth. They cannot interact with others or use a water source.

Even though the Nepali Supreme Court banned chaupadi in 2005, enforcement does not reach rural areas where gender norms are often stronger. A 2011 U.N. survey in the Accham District of Nepal suggested that 95 percent of women still participated in chaupadi. Women participating in chaupadi experience particular health concerns from exposure and malnutrition to increased vulnerability to wild animals such as poisonous snakes. The U.N. does not have statistics on the number of women whose deaths are due to the practice of chaupadi, but the anonymity that telemedicine offers has increased the number of women asking for medical help.

Telemedicine is remaking the face of health care in rural Nepal. One study of women and telemedicine in Nepal found that women reported “increased comfort in seeking consultation through telemedicine for sexual and reproductive health matters” with access to mobile phones and video conferencing. As technology steers health care, the intersection of development, health and gender dynamics must remain of paramount importance and study not only in Nepal but all over the world. Telemedicine is improving health care in rural Nepal.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

Nepal escape poverty

It is common for countries around the world to experience rapid growth instead of modest poverty reduction, as income is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the wealthy. Nepal, however, leans toward the opposite. The country has reduced the poverty rate by half in just seven years and witnessed an equally significant decline in income inequality. Yet, Nepal remains one of the poorest and slowest-growing economies in Asia. Nonetheless, a few groundbreaking innovations are helping Nepal escape poverty.

Even without poverty as a factor, Nepal faces challenging obstacles to overcome. Since Nepal is a landlocked country it creates a natural barrier to its development. Nepal’s history of extractive political regimes left Nepal with extremely low levels of physical and human capital and illiteracy rates of 90 percent in 1951. A propensity for natural disasters also contributes to continuous setbacks.

Getting to the root of poverty requires solving many of these additional issues along the way. Poverty isn’t just inadequate access to income. It manifests itself in health services and education, often allowing sexism and racism to flourish. In spite of that, numerous solutions are being drafted every day with the world’s poor in mind. Here are three innovations helping Nepal escape poverty:

Suaahara Nutrition Project

Suaahara translates to “good nutrition,” and is a comprehensive nutrition program that teaches skills for nutrient-rich backyard vegetable farming, raising poultry, improving sanitation and hygiene, and controlling pests through demonstration farms and new mothers’ discussion groups.

Though about two-thirds of Nepalese workers worked in agriculture in recent years, the country’s agricultural sector has suffered dramatic losses since a devastating earthquake in 2015. Against a backdrop of food price volatility, the percent of households relying on food assistance increased from less than one-tenth of a percent before the earthquake to 35 percent after. Suaahara will ensure the health of future generations and guarantee budgets prioritize not just the amount of food people eat, but also the nutritional quality.

The Rani Jamara Kulariya Irrigation Project

Before 2012, Nepal’s rural population was primarily made up of smallholder farmers whose level of income was low by international standards. Farmers often experienced rainfalls and droughts that threatened their crop yields. Before project implementation, the Rani Jamara Kulariya Irrigation Scheme regularly suffered from either a shortage of water or severe flood damage. Furthermore, the government was unable to manage the water equitability which hindered the water distribution. The Rani Jamara Kulariya Irrigation Project put an emphasis on providing more efficient, reliable and flexible water services to farmers and households to mitigate agricultural losses due to water hazards and improve economic gains.

Modernizing the irrigation scheme allowed it to be resilient to water-induced hazards, proven after torrential rain in August of 2017. The project’s inclusive approach increased the number of women working in the Water User Association from 19 percent to 33 percent between 2012 and 2017. Moreover, about 40 percent of the command area saw an increase in irrigated crop yields; 117 kilometers of village roads were upgraded to gravel roads, bridges and culverts, and nearly 16,000 water users have benefitted from this project so far.

Promotion of Early Grade Reading

Nepal has made remarkable progress in expanding learning opportunities for children and adults. Since 1990, primary school enrollment rates have increased from 64 to 96 percent. However, the quality of education remains low and the overall literacy rate is around 65 percent.

A USAID-supported early grade reading assessment in 2014 showed that 19 percent of third-graders could not read a single word of Nepali. Together with the Ministry of Education, USAID plans to help one million young children acquire strong reading skills in grades one to three across 16 districts of Nepal.

Beyond just improving reading and literacy skills, these focused education efforts are strengthening curriculum and training teachers, school committee members, parents and technical support staff across the country. Just a 10 percent increase in basic literacy skills can boost a country’s economic growth by 0.3 percent and create a foundation for future learning.

These kinds of innovations are crucial in helping bend the curve toward increased child survival, lower malnutrition, greater literacy skills, and ultimately, the end of extreme poverty. Solutions like these will help Nepal escape poverty, drive broader development progress and elevate transformative efforts toward change.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

 

Water and Sanitation in Nepal

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, or Nepal, is a landlocked South Asian country located mainly in the Himalayas and between China and India. Nepal is the third poorest country in Asia with a GDP per capita of $2,690. Around 21 percent of Nepal’s 29.3 million residents live below the poverty line which is the equivalent of 50 cents per day. Poverty has been a contributing factor to the nation’s long-standing issues securing clean drinking water and proper sanitation. However, Nepal has made tremendous progress increasing its population’s access to improved water sources to 91.6 percent in 2015 compared to 65.9 percent in 1990.

Background

Still, while more people have access to improved drinking water, the quality of the water remains alarming. In 2014, 81.2 percent of household drinking water from improved water sources and 89.6 percent from unimproved water sources tested positive for fecal contamination.

Thirty-seven percent of Nepal’s rural areas practice open defecation. This is a huge decline from 93 percent in 1990. Open defecation perpetuates a cycle of disease, poor sanitation and poverty. Exposure to human waste through open defecation and fecal contamination in drinking water leads to waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and trachoma. Children under 5 are especially susceptible to increased health issues, stunting and even death due to these diseases. Since the end of 2017, 47 of Nepal’s 75 districts have eliminated open defecation which is great progress. Nepal aims to soon be entirely free of open defecation with universal sanitation and improved hygiene.

Sixty-two percent of households in Nepal use an improved sanitation facility compared to only six percent in 1990. This is substantial progress, but there is still more to do to secure improved sanitation in Nepal. Twenty percent of Nepal’s public schools lack improved water and sanitation facilities and 19 percent lack separate toilets for girls and menstrual hygiene management facilities.

Uncontrolled industry discharge, domestic waste and untreated sewage flowing into Nepal’s bodies of water have worsened the water and sanitation crises in Nepal. The 2015 earthquakes also destroyed many of Nepal’s clean water systems and networks.

Nepal’s National Water and Sanitation Goals

The Government of Nepal set the national goal of providing 100 percent of the population with basic water and sanitation services by 2017. Nepal created around 40,000 water schemes to achieve these goals. Its first priority project is the Melamchi Water Supply Project that transfers water from the Indrawati River Basin to the Bagmati River Basin to provide clean drinking water for the people of Kathmandu. The Bagmati Area Physical Infrastructure Project is another big project that aims to clean and save the Bagmati River and its Kathmandu tributaries to become a source of clean water.

Efforts to Improve Water and Sanitation in Nepal

USAID’s Safaa Paani (WASH Recovery) project helps improve sustainable drinking water in the two districts where the 2015 earthquakes disrupted water systems the most—the Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha Districts. From 2015 to 2019, the Safaa Paani project is collaborating with Nepal’s Department of Water Supply and Sewage and other stakeholders to lead the reconstruction of water and sanitation infrastructure in Nepal. Its key outcomes are to renovate or construct water supply systems for 200 communities, map water sources, conduct microbial water quality tests, create water safety plans and create 10 public latrines in public areas.

UNICEF’s WASH intervention programs for Nepal are also multifaceted. These programs work to improve access to safe water at schools and health care facilities, strengthen water safety with regulations and plans, develop strategies to ensure clean water and sanitation to unreached areas and support the government to develop new WASH legislation. They emphasize gender equality by gender-friendly sanitation facilities and by promoting proper menstrual hygiene. UNICEF credits its programs successes to intersectoral collaboration.

The nonprofit Splash supports 101,149 kids daily to receive clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene programs in Nepal through sites in the city of Kathmandu’s 500 public schools. It focuses on water filtration purification, improving sanitation with safe and secure toilets, hygiene education and behavioral change. Splash helps improve water and sanitation in urban areas of Nepal by leveraging existing markets.

Overall, Nepal and various nonprofits have made rapid strides to improve water and sanitation in Nepal. The country has made progress in increasing the access to clean water and sanitation facilities as well as eliminating open defecation in many areas. This momentum of progress must continue to address Nepal’s remaining water and sanitation issues. The intersectoral collaboration of NGOs, the Nepalis, the Government of Nepal and businesses will continue to address these issues and reach towards improvements in water and sanitation in Nepal.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Nepal

Nestled in the heart of the Himalayan mountains, Nepal has long been praised for its beauty and local culture. As the country continues to develop, there have been trends and statistics that show the true physical well-being of the population as a whole, particularly regarding the life expectancy in Nepal. As with all countries, there are many pieces that come into play when determining a country’s life expectancy, and they vary wildly depending on the region. Here we will take a look at 10 facts about life expectancy in Nepal and the contributing factors that affect those numbers.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Nepal

  1. Twenty-five percent of the population in Nepal lives below the poverty line. There are many things that influence life expectancy rates, and many of those are attributed to financial insecurity. With one-quarter of Nepal’s population living in classified poverty, they are unable to afford the most basic of healthcare and even food, leading to shorter and more difficult lives.
  2. Nepal has high infant mortality rates. In Nepal, 35 out of every 1,000 children die in infancy. Due to a lack of proper facilities and practitioners qualified for natal and infant care, over three percent of children die before they reach the age of five.
  3. Almost 1,000,000 Nepali people are unemployed. Unemployment can affect many people in many ways; without access to jobs and the consequent benefits, it can make life a struggle similar to that of those living in poverty.
  4. Malnourishment rates are high. Approximately 5 million Nepali children are malnourished. Studies conducted within the last decade have shown that nutrition directly correlates to certain health conditions, and that malnourishment is linked with lower life expectancy.
  5. Nepal is prone to natural disasters. Despite being in one of the most scenic parts of the world, Nepal’s mountain location in the heart of the Himalayas poses risk to the population. Its location leaves the Nepali people vulnerable to a host of different natural disasters, including floods, landslides and earthquakes. These natural disasters are another factor to take into account when calculating life expectancy.
  6. Regardless of negative factors, life expectancy numbers in Nepal are rising. Data obtained from British medical journal Lancet shows recent findings of life expectancy increasing among the Nepali population. Going up over 12 years within two decades, the numbers are rising and show no signs of stopping. This noticeable increase has several causes such as improvements in health care, job access rates and better living conditions.
  7. Nepal’s public health care system is improving. Another reason for rising life expectancy rates in Nepal is the continuing development of their public health care system. The Nepal government has committed to enacting a universal health coverage plan and is a crucial factor in raising life expectancy. While the government and donor-funded health care plan is still in the early stages, once fully developed it will open up a world of benefits to those in need, particularly affecting people with chronic illnesses and diseases and allowing them to receive better care.
  8. Maternal mortality rates are lowering. Going hand-in-hand with Nepal’s expanding health care system, studies are showing that maternal mortality rates are dropping. Within 25 years, the country has reduced the national maternal mortality rate drastically, going from 901 deaths per 100,000 births down to 258. That seventy-one percent decrease is largely due to more equipped facilities and trained medical personnel, which in turn minimizes the number of unsupervised home births.
  9. Educational systems are improving. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the enrollment rate in primary schools has risen to 97 percent over the last 20 years. These numbers show the slow elevation of educational access in Nepal, but there is still a long way to go. UNICEF has partnered with the country’s government to initiate a four-year improvement plan in hopes of providing even higher quality education to more students across the country. Increasing these educational opportunities allow for jobs and other options otherwise inaccessible, leading to higher quality and longer lives.
  10. Nepal is beginning to manage the future. Ensuring that the elderly citizens of Nepal are being well taken care of is essential for a thriving population and will increase life expectancy. By spending more of the budget on pension and medical care for the elderly, Nepal has displayed a commitment to safeguarding the wellbeing of future generations.

In a recent study of more than 188 countries, Nepal was in the top 10 countries to have significantly improved life expectancy rates. The many factors that are consistently being improved upon—such as health care, job access, educational opportunities and positive lifestyle influences—are proving their worth. Despite facing many challenges to still overcome, Nepal is making many improvements that will ensure longer, healthier lives for the Nepali people.

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Pixabay

Menstrual Shaming in NepalEarlier this year, 35-year-old Amba Bohara and her two children were found dead in a cowshed in Nepal. Because she was menstruating, she and her sons could not stay in their home. They were forced to sleep in a shed in freezing Himilayan weather. Smoke inhalation is the suspected reason that all three died in their sleep. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence. Roughly 70 percent of Nepalese women living in agricultural communities face exile while on their periods.

A Culture of Menstrual Shaming

In Nepal, culture considers women to be impure and unlucky when they are menstruating. Due to stigma, they are often banished from their homes during their periods and confined in small huts made of mud or rock. Unfortunately, many of these women often die from smoke inhalation, animal bites or the cold Himalayan winters. Combating menstrual shaming in Nepal is vital in reducing danger and improving the lives of women.

Not only is this practice dangerous for women, but it is also an expression of overt discrimination and patriarchal control. Culture teaches girls that they are dirty and inferior. As a result, this compromises their basic agency and equality.

Shaming Compromises Health and Education

Because of the stigma, there is also a lack of basic access to sanitation facilities in public institutions, work and schools throughout the country. Sanitary hygiene products are often too costly or inaccessible for those in more rural areas. Vulnerable women have access to unhygienic materials and methods that put their health at serious risk. Infection can lead to painful disorders such as endometriosis and dysmenorrhea, which can also affect fertility.

Additionally, educational success is difficult for adolescent girls to attain. As much as 90 percent of girls throughout the country are forced to miss school for 3-4 days of the month during their periods because of restrictions on mobility or social exclusion.

Efforts to Eliminate Menstrual Shaming in Nepal

A law criminalizing Chhaupadi (the practice in which women are banished from the home during menstruation and childbirth) was enacted in 2017. Anyone forcing a woman to leave is liable to three months in jail. Criminalization has largely eradicated the practice in some districts, but it is still common in others.

Although the law is a step in the right direction, more effort is needed to rid Nepal of the practice completely. Chhaupadi deep-rooted in Hindu scriptures and women’s rights activists argue that laws alone will not change such beliefs. Instead, Nepal needs to empower women with knowledge about menstrual health.

In a few Nepalese districts, there has been further progress in enforcing the laws. For example, village councils in Dadeldhura have started taking away governmental rights. For example, birth certifications and financial services are available to families that have a menstruation hut or do not send their daughters to school during their periods. Decreasing numbers of menstrual huts in these districts prove it to be an effective way to combat menstrual shaming in Nepal.

At the MenstruAction conference in Kathmandu in December of 2018, local experts and organizations worked towards challenging stigmas and reducing discrimination. Some examples of organizations fighting against cultural taboos are:

  • Putali
  • NFCC
  • Her-Turn
  • FANSA-Nepal
  • Green Tara

Menstruation Myths and Hygiene

These organizations are educating women about the rights they have, as well as proper menstrual hygiene management.  They teach women how to develop leadership skills that prepare them to fight taboos in their community. Organizations teach women how to make clean, homemade sanitary napkins.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Trust Fund is working in partnership with Restless Development Nepal to educate communities and dispel some of the myths related to menstruation. The U.N. Population Fund is also improving the situation in Nepal by distributing “dignity kits” containing menstrual hygiene products to communities in need. Together, these forms of assistance are slowly increasing awareness and accessibility throughout Nepal.

With the combined help of experts and organizations, menstrual shaming in Nepal has decreased greatly since its criminalization in 2017. In order to promote more change, the government must engage with activists and work to further enforce penalties.

– Malini Nayak
Photo: Flickr

Infant Mortality in NepalOver the past 10 years, infant mortality in Nepal has decreased. The number of infants dying before they reach age one has been reduced by more than 50 percent. In 2006, the United Nations Populations Fund ranked Nepal as the most affected by infant and maternal mortality in South Asia. Not many people know what chlorhexidine does for Nepal. However, chlorhexidine is becoming more common in routine care nationwide. Over 1.3 million newborns throughout Nepal benefit from this product.

How Chlorhexidine Helps Nepal

Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic used in hospitals to disinfect the skin before surgery and to sanitize surgical tools. In countries like Nepal, it is used to prevent deadly infections by protecting the umbilical stumps of newborns. It is safe and affordable. Chlorhexidine comes as either a gel or a liquid. It is easy to manufacture and simple to use. Mothers, birth attendants and others with little training in low-resource settings benefit the most from this antiseptic.

Research and Trials

Between November 2002 and March 2005, Nepal Nutrition Intervention Project, Sarlahi (NNIPS) started a community-based trial. The trial hoped to determine the effects of chlorhexidine on newborns. Nepal Health Research Council and the Committee on Human Research of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health approved the trial. A local female researcher approached women who were six months into pregnancy for enrollment, to explain the procedures and obtain their oral consent.

Education also became a part of the research testing for those in the chlorhexidine trials. Parents in this group received educational messages about clean cord care.

Results

The NNIPS enrolled 15,123 infants into the trials. Of these infants, 268 resulted in neonatal death. Of the surviving infants, researchers found that there is a 24 percent lower risk of mortality among the chlorhexidine group than those who use dry cord-care (no soap and water, chlorhexidine or any other liquid). Also, infant mortality in Nepal was reduced by 34 percent in those enrolled in the trial within the first 24 hours of their birth.

The trial data also provides evidence that cleansing the umbilical cord with chlorhexidine can lessen the risk of omphalitis and other infections. Omphalitis, a cord infection, was reduced by 75 percent when treated with chlorhexidine. The antiseptic was determined to have an overall positive and significant effect on the public health of the country.

Impact in Nepal

In 2009, after results of the trials released, the USAID supported the Government of Nepal to pilot a chlorhexidine program. Saving Lives at Birth: a Grand Challenge for Development, an NGO, included chlorhexidine into routine care nationwide two years later. The Government of Nepal has advocated and promoted the usage of chlorhexidine by packaging the products as a maternal health product. They are now even educating health care workers on the application of the product.

The country received a USAID Pioneers Prize for lowering the neonatal death rate significantly. In 2007 the mortality rate was 43.4 per 1,000. In 2018, it lowered to 27.32 per 1,000.

Global Impact

What chlorhexidine does for Nepal goes beyond its borders. Nepal has also impacted countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bangladesh. These countries are now using chlorhexidine to lower the infant mortality rate and create healthier societies.

In 2013, Nigeria started chlorhexidine pilot programs to also lower its neonatal death rate. The infant mortality rate is determined by newborn deaths per 1,000 people born. Nigeria once had the third-highest number of infant deaths (75.3 per 1,000). However, the infant mortality rate now is ranked as the eighth-highest at about 64.6 deaths per 1,000.

Chlorhexidine is reducing infant mortality in Nepal and other countries.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr