Period Poverty in Nepal
Just like the rest of the world, COVID-19 is significantly impacting Nepal. With an actual existing poverty rate of 25.2% and low literacy rates of 75.1% for males and a 57.4% rate for females, the pandemic has further challenged Nepal through forced school closings and shortages of necessary household items. In particular, period poverty in Nepal has become a dilemma for many Nepalese women and girls. The lack of access to menstrual sanitary products as well as the cultural stigma of chhaupadi, an outdated tradition of isolating menstruating women and prohibiting them from touching others and communal objects, combine to make period poverty in Nepal a pressing issue for women.

The Problem: Existing Stigmas and Disparities

The Nepali government technically outlawed chhaupadi in 2005; however, 18 women died because of chhaupadi since this policy’s creation. Additionally, a 2019 study found that 77% of west-central Nepali girls had undergone menstrual exile. In the context of the pandemic, discriminatory ideals are on the rise. Many fear that contact with menstruating women increases the risk of contracting COVID-19. Traditionally, a majority of girls receive menstrual hygiene products from schools. Without access to school due to the pandemic lockdown, however, many Nepalese girls have been deprived of essential resources like tampons. These closings increased demand for sanitary products in retail stores, causing many businesses to deplete their inventories following the announcement of quarantine quickly.

This deficiency forced women to begin relying on unhygienic alternatives such as old pieces of clothes and even leaves to manage their periods. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, roughly 83% of women used alternate forms of hygiene rather than a sanitary pad, while only 15% used actual hygienic pads. Furthermore, 47% of girls admitted to missing school because of menstruation. The use of these unhygienic methods increases the risk of reproductive tract infections as well as cervical cancer. Around 77% of young girls claimed that, due to hygiene products’ lack of accessibility and affordability, they resorted to making their pads.  The financial difficulties that COVID-19 has created have only exacerbated the inability to purchase sanitary pads.

Organizations Helping to Overcome Period Poverty in Nepal

Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) is pouring its efforts into combating period poverty in Nepal by educating young girls on how to make reusable, hygienic and sanitary pads. VSO initiated a program called Sisters for Sisters that paired young Nepali girls with mentors. Before the pandemic, this mentorship program had informed 2,000 girls on how to construct their sanitary pads. These pads can last up to five years, making this solution appealing to the majority of Nepali families. The Sisters for Sisters program has also focused on debunking discriminatory menstruation ideology.

Action Aid is another organization working to combat period poverty in Nepal. This organization distributes sanitary menstrual kits following emergencies or disasters, with a commitment to helping every woman and girl manage their periods safely. The organization’s efforts to tackle period poverty include various tactics. Similar to the Sisters for Sisters campaign, Action Aid trains girls to make their reusable sanitary pads. It also offers educational services better, informing girls about their periods and how to navigate menstrual cycles healthily. Finally, Action Aid aims to eliminate period shaming ideologies such as chhaupadi in Nepal.

Hope for a Better Future

Period poverty is a continual issue for many impoverished countries with preexisting discriminatory stigmas surrounding the topic, and the pandemic has only amplified these issues. With the help of organizations working to aid women and girls in their communities and eradicate period poverty in Nepal, however, there is hope for a safer and more sanitary future.

– Adelle Tippetts
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Nepal
Millions of Nepalese citizens are at risk of becoming victims of the human trafficking trade every year. However, one can only estimate the statistically correct percentage of victims. Captivating International, a nonprofit based in Nepal, founded My Business-My Freedom in the hopes of fighting human trafficking in Nepal.

My Business-My Freedom

My Business-My Freedom is a micro-finance and education program helping Nepalese women achieve business success, self-sustainability and freedom. Beneficiaries include both women who are most at risk of becoming victims of trafficking and current rescued survivors of human trafficking in Nepal.

The organization estimates that a loan of $200 will help one woman start her business and that when she repays it, it will go to the next prospective business owner. Currently, 240 women living in Pokhara and Chitwan are immersed in the program with room to grow. The initiative plans to continue expanding into other regions and aiding around 1,000 women per year.

How does My Business-My Freedom Work?

The program leads each woman through the process of starting a business including ensuring that it is successful, well-funded and sustainable. The My Business-My Freedom program involves the following steps for prospective business owners:

  • Providing training about entrepreneurship and business opportunity.
  • Mentoring on money management, savings, budgeting and other basic business skills.
  • Connecting with other women in similar circumstances in order to create a sense of belonging and community.
  • A low-interest loan to start up the business: when it is paid, the owner is eligible to take future loans until it is no longer necessary.

Captivating International and COVID-19 Relief

In recent news, My Business-My Freedom partnered with 3 Angels Nepal to combat food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The partnership accomplished this through checking in on women and families over the phone. If the women and their families were in need, the partnership made and delivered food relief packages to them. These packages included rice, dal, cooking oil, salt, soybeans and lentils.

The efforts of Captivating International and 3 Angels Nepal found that 30 women were in need, and provided them and their families with food. The latter organization also works on the ground by suspending loan payments and providing both phone support and food assistance.

Lowering Vulnerability Through Funding Successful Entrepreneurs

According to the Report of Armed Police Force of India, the number of Nepalese girls working in sex trafficking in India increased quite steadily from 2012 to 2017. Child trafficking is incredibly high as well. Captivating International, through My Business-My Freedom, is just one of the organizations working to eradicate human trafficking in Nepal. In covering a widening area of influence and contributing to building the economy, Captivating International is creating sustainability by increasing security and income for women. This, in turn, should help to alleviate the vulnerable populations that traffickers prey upon in Nepal.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Photography Fights Child MarriageTwelve million girls a year—or 23 girls every minute—are married before their 18th birthday. The most common factors that contribute to child marriage are poverty, lack of education and gender norms. Around the world, 21% of young women were married as minors. The prevalence of child marriage is even higher in sub-Saharan Africa, at 37% of young women. Various art forms, including photography and music, have been used to advocate for the eradication of this harmful practice. Photography fights child marriage by raising awareness for this pressing issue and empowering women to take action.

Costs of Child Marriage

When young women and girls are forced to marry, they are less likely to attend school. They are separated from their family and friends, and they are also more likely to experience life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth, suffer domestic violence and contract HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, child marriage traps these girls in a cycle of poverty, in which they and their children are less able to access opportunities for education and economic empowerment.

Photography Fights Child Marriage and Empowers Girls

Too Young to Wed, a nonprofit founded in 2012 by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair, uses photography to raise awareness of the prevalence of child marriage. This organization creates media campaigns focusing on child marriage and uses compelling photojournalism to show that the practice is a violation of human rights. The photographs have been seen by billions, and one media campaign that focused on child marriage in Nepal reached more than 9.7 million people. The photographs, alongside firsthand accounts from girls at risk of or impacted by child marriage, “inspire the global advocacy and policy-making communicates to act,” according to Sinclair.

In addition to organizing photo workshops, this organization provides leadership scholarships, vocational training and other support. The Leadership Scholarship program is especially crucial because education is vital to preventing child marriages. In the last eight years, Too Young to Wed has directly helped 600 girls, and much more indirectly, in its fight against child marriage. Sinclair told Global Citizen, “[Girls] can do all kinds of things that they can bring back to their community and then also bring them out of a level of poverty where the most extreme forms of child marriage are definitely happening.” When young women are educated, their children are more likely to be educated as well, which helps take the family out of the cycle of poverty.  Overall, Too Young to Wed uses visual evidence and storytelling to highlight the harmful impacts of child marriage, empower girls and inspire change.

Tehani Photo Workshop

Since 2016, Too Young to Wed has provided a week-long photography workshop that also functions as an immersive art therapy retreat called the Tehani Photo Workshop. Partnered with the Samburu Girls Foundation, Too Young to Wed held the first workshop in Kenya, where about 1 in 4 girls are married before the age of 18. During this workshop, 10 girls who had escaped their marriages learned how to shoot portraits, and they were able to form friendships and reclaim their narratives. To conclude the workshop, the girls presented their photographs and told their stories to more than 100 members of their community.  According to Sinclair, the workshops aim to “help [the girls] better realize their self-worth and the value of their voice.”

Music as a Tool in the Fight Against Child Marriage

In Benin, where more than 25% of girls are married before they are 18 years old, artists collaborated in 2017 to release a song and music video that highlighted this issue. UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassadors Angélique Kidjo and Zeynab Abib, along with seven other artists, composed the song as part of the national Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage. The song is titled “Say No to Child Marriage” and includes multiple languages so its message resonates with people within Benin and in neighboring countries. “Child marriage is a negation of children’s right to grow up free,” said Kidjo. “Every child has the right to a childhood.”

In 2019, the United Nations Children’s Fund worked with music producer Moon Boots and vocalist Black Gatsby to produce a music video to speak out against child marriage in Niger, where 76% of girls are married before the age of 18. Also, according to UNICEF, Niger has the world’s highest rate of child marriage. The song, titled “Power,” promotes education as a positive alternative that can empower girls and reduce poverty in their communities. According to a Félicité Tchibindat, a UNICEF representative in Niger, it also fights against the practice of child marriage by raising awareness that “ending child marriage is possible,” even though it is a long-held social norm.

Conclusion

Although the rates of child marriage are gradually declining worldwide, it is estimated that 120 million more girls under the age of 18 will be married by 2030 if current trends continue. The coronavirus pandemic has also put up to 13 million more girls at risk of child marriage because of rising poverty rates, school closures and hindered access to reproductive health services and resources.

Twenty-five million child marriages have been prevented in the last ten years, and UNICEF attributes the decline of the practice in part to “strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes.” While photography fights child marriage, further far-reaching and powerful art initiatives, along with the work of national governments and international organizations, can continue to raise awareness, empower girls and reduce the prevalence of this practice around the world.

– Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

Inclusiveness in NepalIn 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the South Asian country of Nepal, killing 9,000 people, injuring 168,00 more and destroying tens of thousands of homes. The tragedy and ongoing reconstruction that followed sparked the scarred nation to adopt a new constitution. This act is in an effort to create more transparency and equality. However, Nepal’s traditional society that remained provided little support for the lower class including women. USAID has stepped in to aid with reconstruction and support Archana Tamang as a USAID-funded gender and social inclusion (GESI) advisor to the government. She wants to ensure that women, as well as other marginalized people, have a voice in creating a sense of inclusiveness in Nepal and helping lead it into the future.

A History of Gender Inequality and Violence

Women, especially those from lower castes in Nepal’s Hindu culture, have little opportunities for education, health care and work outside the home. A woman has no choice but to marry into what are often arranged marriages that define her life. Husbands control the family resources leaving women often shunned and impoverished should they be divorced or widowed. These marriages can often be oppressive and even abusive.

“During the first earthquake in 2015, Archana was traveling to Afghanistan for work; but the quake ‘was a real wake up call.'” Tamang’s choice to fight GESI issues is inspired by her experience. She got married at the early age of 17 to a man from India. Tamang lived with emotional and physical abuse for five years before escaping back to Nepal with her daughter. In Nepal, she later became involved in GESI efforts. She was working in Afghanistan when the earthquake hit and quickly returned to her home to help rebuild.

On the Road to Change

The National Reconstruction Authority is the sector of the Nepalese government that has overseen rebuilding after the earthquake. As Nepal’s government moves toward a more transparent leadership, the National Reconstruction Authority had pledged to help defenseless populations. However, a focused approach was lacking. Tamang developed a research-supported GESI Action Plan for the government where she would “empower women and ensure that they were able to earn a living.”

Tamang makes it her mission to visit women and other powerless people in their home villages to educate them on their liberties and duties. She wants to make sure they are heard in the reconstruction process. Her GESI Action Plan mandates that at least two of five posts in local governments are to be held by women. Plus, women make up at least one of two mayoral or deputy mayoral candidates in each Nepal district. The plan has also called for women to get paid the same as men for their labor helping to rebuild, further nurturing inclusiveness in Nepal.

A Future for Inclusiveness in Nepal

In 2017, Nepal had its first election in over 20 years under the new constitution and more than 1.7 million Nepalis — most of whom were women and lower-class people — registered to vote for the first time. The elections brought more than 14,000 women into government. This demonstrates the effectiveness of Tamang’s Action Plan to the point where it received full government financial support. She is happy to report that in 2019, 40% of elected officials were women. In addition, more and more girls are being educated and finding their voice to help heal their scarred nation.

– Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Nepal Youth Foundation
Despite the country’s growing GDP, Nepal ranks the poorest among countries in South Asia and the 12th poorest in the world. One quarter of the 28.09 million population lives below the poverty line. Nepal’s poverty is even more evident in the country’s young population, as more than 60% of children lack at least one basic necessity. With children under the age of 18 making up 40% of Nepal’s population, investments in youth are integral to the nation’s continued improvement. Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF) is a nonprofit organization that works to empower Nepali youth through educational programs, health services and girls’ empowerment.

The Problem: Education in Nepal

Although Nepal’s education system improved in the past decade, gender disparities and segregation of disabled children prevail. Secondary school completion rates remain low, as only 30% of males and 15% of females have completed secondary school. Poorer areas pose additional challenges to female education, as the female literacy rate in rural areas is 74% compared to 89% in urban areas.

However, Nepal’s education system fails vulnerable, disabled children the most. More than 30% of children with disabilities do not attend school, as most public schools refuse to enroll them. When they do attend school, children with disabilities are placed in segregated classrooms, resulting in social isolation and an education of lower quality. It is estimated that more than 200,000 children in Nepal have disabilities.

3 Solutions from Nepal Youth Foundation

  1. Educational Scholarships: Nepal Youth Foundation provides educational scholarships for vulnerable youth, which include disabled, orphaned and homeless children. These scholarships pay for clothing, health services, living costs and counseling, in addition to educational expenses.
  2. Day School Scholarship: Nepal Youth Foundation’s Day School Scholarship program purchases school supplies and covers school fees for 165 children living in Kathmandu’s slums.
  3. Supporting Higher Education: The organization supports impoverished, high-performing students in college, prioritizing girls and other vulnerable groups. Nepal Youth Foundation contributes to the education of more than 300 students in Nepali universities. By prioritizing education for girls and vulnerable groups, Nepal Youth Foundation provides specific solutions for Nepal’s impoverished and vulnerable young people.

The Problem: Malnutrition and HIV/AIDS in Nepal

Both malnutrition and HIV/AIDS pose significant challenges to Nepal’s impoverished youth, who are most likely to lack basic needs and contract diseases. Of every five Nepali children, two are malnourished. Although the nation produces greens and sprouted vegetables that could solve malnutrition, these nutritional foods are most commonly fed to livestock, in accordance with rural traditions in Nepal. As a result, most rural Nepali people eat white rice for the majority of their meals. Healthcare providers’ lack of awareness of the connection between diet and malnutrition exacerbates Nepal’s staggering malnutrition rate, as hospitals fail to address the root causes of malnutrition and offer temporary remedies instead.

Although HIV/AIDS is considered a concentrated epidemic in Nepal isolated to at-risk groups, stigma around the disease has detrimental effects on those diagnosed. Children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are neglected by society, denied healthcare, refused school enrollment and socially isolated by their peers.

3 NYF Solutions

  1. Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes: Nepal Youth Foundation’s 17 Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes exclusively treat malnourished children. Since 1998, these homes have replenished the health of more than 15,000 children. Malnourished children stay in Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes for three to four weeks and are fed diets catered to their specific needs. Additionally, these homes teach caregivers and mothers about cooking healthy foods with cheap, available produce to ensure the long-term health of children and families.
  2. Nutritional Outreach Camps: NYF’s Nutritional Outreach Camps provide further prevention and intervention services for malnourished children. To treat malnourished children, NYF provides medical check ups and medicine and distributes a nutritional flour called Lito. The organization’s prevention techniques include nutrition and hygiene education for local communities. Each short camp serves between 500-800 children and their families.
  3. New Life Center: The organization’s New Life Center serves children with HIV/AIDS with a team of doctors, nutritionists and specialists that provide healthy diets, counseling, treatment and fun activities. Nepal Youth Foundation also ensures that adults are trained in proper hygiene practices. Nepal Youth Foundation’s commitment to finding solutions to malnutrition and reducing the stigma against children with HIV/AIDS has lasting effects on the communities it serves.

The Problem: Indentured Servitude of Kamlari Girls

Kamlari is a rural Nepali tradition of indentured servitude, through which girls from impoverished families are sold as domestic slaves for a yearly monetary price.  These girls, often sold at very young ages, are not legally protected by a contract and are almost always denied the food, bed and education they are promised. Additionally, many are subjected to violence, food deprivation and rape. Although many girls have been rescued as a result of NYF and government efforts, more than 300 girls remain in child slavery.

Nepal Youth Foundation Solutions

The organization’s Empowering Freed Kamlaris program provides management and business training, vocational career counseling and emotional support for former Kamlari girls. NYF also collaborates with local governments to locate and rescue enslaved Kamlari girls. The organization’s Freed Kamlari Development Forum has contributed to the rescue of more than 12,000 girls. Kamlari girls support each other in building businesses through the Freed Kamlari Development Forum, which has more than 2600 members in 37 business collectives. Many former Kamlari girls in the program are trained in specialized skills to run a business and secure a stable source of income. By rescuing and training former Kamlari girls in self sufficiency and economic freedom, Nepal Youth Foundation empowers girls and strengthens the communities in which they build their businesses.

The Nepali government should follow the example of Nepal Youth Foundation and continue to implement programs that support the country’s future generation in education, employment, access to healthcare and gender equality. It is by empowering young people that developing nations progress.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Unsplash

poverty in nepal
Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia along the Himalayan Mountain Range. According to the United Nations, it is one of the least developed nations in the world. Natural disasters, geographical isolation, ongoing political conflict and poverty exacerbate the challenges of large populations in Nepal.

4 Major Groups that Poverty in Nepal Affects

  1. The Dalit people live outside of the caste system and have no social mobility, facing extreme discrimination. Lower members and untouchables experience restriction from moving up in the caste system; 46% of the Dalit people in Nepal experience poverty. Dalit women are poorer than Dalit men. Women work for their landlords while men work low social status jobs. Some women are unpaid because they work in Haliya Pratha (bonded labor) or Khala Pratha (forced labor). The Dalit population does not receive equal job opportunities and earns unfair wages. Nepal should enforce laws against discrimination to improve the lives of the Dalit.
  2. Women and girls in poverty need stronger government protections to prevent crime. There is little legal accountability for those who commit violence and rape against women. Girls who have the responsibility of walking miles to get clean water are at often at risk of human trafficking. In 2018, authorities refused to recognize the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Dalit girl. Gender discrimination is legal in Nepal and the 2015 Constitution grants men a higher legal status than women. Unfortunately, the government does not strongly enforce laws against chhaupadi (menstrual seclusion) and child marriage.
  3. Landlords control the land-poor or landless people in rural areas. Land ownership results in food access and control over one’s own resources. The feudalistic land system contributes to the fact that the top 5% of people own 37% of the land. Tenants constantly face the threat of face eviction and have no land to grow food on. Landless people do not get access to services such as running water and electricity in their homes whether on private or public property. Nearly 25% of the population owns no land and 85% of people living in rural areas are land poor. Women and Dalits make up a large portion of landless people that poverty in Nepal affects.
  4. The struggling middle class is at risk of falling back into poverty. Although people in the middle class have overcome adversity, chronic poverty still threatens a significant portion. For every two people that overcome poverty, one falls back into poverty. This means that even though Nepal has been successful at reducing poverty, 45% of people are in the vulnerable class that is struggling to stay above the poverty line. If Nepal can provide more social safety nets, it can prevent the vulnerable class known as the struggling middle class from falling back into poverty.

The Poverty Alleviation Fund

The Poverty Alleviation Fund is working in 55 districts to improve the Nepali lives. Community building and social inclusion methods uplift groups customarily discriminated against, including the Untouchables, women, rural land-poor and the vulnerable middle class. Using approaches to provide relief and resources to communities, the Poverty Alleviation Fund is working directly with those experiencing poverty in Nepal.

Hannah Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Garment Industry in Nepal
Nepal is one of many developing South Asian countries that plays a substantial role in the global ready-made garment industry. These mass-produced textiles have become a staple export from Nepal, but they have also normalized the unethical practices of fast-fashion chains within the country. Over the last two decades, Nepal has struggled to regulate both economic and ethical issues within the garment industry, but the last few years have produced a shift towards a brighter future for garment workers. Here are six facts about the history of the garment industry in Nepal and the efforts to address both the problems of fast-fashion chains and the country’s economic reliance on them.

6 Facts About the Garment Industry in Nepal

  1. In the 1980s, the garment industry in Nepal boomed because of interest and funding from Indian exporters. Due to the product quota limits in India, exporters looked to Nepal to increase their production. This expanded production served to boost not only Nepal’s economy but also its reach on the global production scale. Thus, Nepal became a viable option for countries to produce and export various textiles.
  2. In 2004, intense competition in the global garment market broke out after the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Textiles and Clothing expired. Nepal struggled to outproduce their competition and subsequently saw a fall in revenue from garment exports. The Multi-Fiber Agreement, an international trade agreement that allowed duty-free access to the U.S. for Nepal, also fell through in 2005 and further exacerbated the country’s declining international revenue.
  3. The international economic aftermath of 9/11 also negatively affected the U.S.’s reliance on the garment industry in Nepal. The U.S. was the recipient of 87% of Nepal’s readymade garments until 2002. In subsequent years, Europe, Canada, Australia, and India have become the largest markets for Nepali garments, making up 90% of the country’s exports.
  4. In the 2018 fiscal year, the garment industry in Nepal hit a new high. The industry made approximately RS 6.34 billion (approximately  $84.9 million), up 6.52% from the previous year. Despite this rise in revenue, Nepal had exported fewer garments than it had the year before.
  5. Chandi Prasal Aryal, president of the Garment Association of Nepal, claimed that the financial growth was due to a shift from quantity to quality. By focusing on producing better garments instead of more garments, other countries were willing to pay extra for better products. Because of the fine quality of the exports, those same countries are now willing to buy even more of the pricier garments.
  6. The focus on quality over quantity changes the focus of the garment industry in Nepal. Instead of relying on fast fashion practices that prioritize creating as many items as possible within a set amount of time, the industry can now shift to more ethical work forms. Thus, the quality of the garments will continue to improve and raise the value of each item, bringing more money back into the Nepali economy.

The exact reach and impact that the garment industry has had on Nepalese poverty remains unclear, but the future looks bright. The Nepalese government reports that employment data within the garment industry is “not readily available” but at the peak of its power, the garment industry employed 12% of the overall labor pool of the Nepalese manufacturing sector. As of 2019, the World Bank calculates the poverty line in Nepal to be $1.90 per person per day. Nepal lacked substantial policy in terms of a minimum wage, but the Library of Congress reports that since 2016, Nepalese workers across industries now make a minimum wage of approximately $3.74 per person per day. The modern garment industry, regulated with a minimum wage, can help lift Nepalese workers above the poverty line of the country, even if the garment industry of the past once presented a potential hurdle.

There still exists substantial work to transform the garment industry in Nepal into both a thriving industry and an equally ethical one; the country is making the first successful steps towards achieving both. This change will provide garment industry employees a better quality of life, as well as ensure that they and their families receive fair treatment.

Nicolette Schneiderman
Photo: UN Multimedia

Hunger in NepalNepal has spent many years suffering from the political turmoil that has both created and fueled much of the country’s long struggle with hunger and nutrition. Hunger in Nepal can be understood through heartbreaking statistics. Approximately 8% of the population is currently undernourished. In addition, 36% of Nepali children under the age of five suffering from severe malnutrition.

On April 15, 2015, the Gorkha earthquake struck central Nepal. The initial shock was measured at magnitude 7.8 while the aftershock was magnitude 7.3. This event decimated more than 600,000 buildings and killed approximately 9,000 civilians. The quake destroyed Nepal’s food supplies, further exasperating the country’s endeavors against hunger. Many different nations from around the globe offered relief assistance with much of the focus placed on providing medical aid and food resources. Since then, there has been an increased effort to lower the country’s hunger and malnutrition rates by both Nepal’s government and foreign organizations. These are five facts about hunger in Nepal and what has been done to address it since the Gorkha Earthquake.

5 Facts About Natural Disasters and Hunger in Nepal

  1. Nepal sits in the Himalayas, a high-risk earthquake zone. Because of this, the country is highly susceptible to natural disasters. Frequent floods, storms, landslides and other events destroy farmlands and threaten the safety of the people. In July of 2019, monsoon season floods and landslides killed 64 people while over 3,000 were displaced from their homes.
  2. The destruction of farmland due to natural disasters leads to heightened prices for the surviving crops. Food transportation in Nepal is also expensive due to the country’s mountainous terrain; the crop prices are greatly raised in rural zones where it is difficult for vehicles to maneuver safely. Around 25% of Nepal’s population live on less than $0.50 a day, making it impossible for them to afford adequate nutrition amid the price hikes.
  3. Approximately 70% of Nepal’s population works in agriculture. Despite the vastness of the sector, farmers lack access to new seeds and technologies. Because of this, rural economies have succumbed to declining production rates and urban migration. Subsequently, the country struggles to produce enough food to sustain a healthy lifestyle for the majority of residents.
  4. In 2015, Nepal ratified a new constitution that made it into a federal democratic republic. By ending the 25-year-long political turmoil, Nepal’s government was able to dedicate itself to addressing the country’s essential issues. In 2018, this new government passed the Right to Food Act; this act proclaims that food is a fundamental right for every citizen and aims to get rid of malnutrition and hunger in Nepal.
  5. Nepal joined other United Nations member states in striving to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. SDG 2 tackles the issue of hunger, nutrition and agriculture. In order to properly address SDG 2, Nepal’s National Planning Commission determined that it would have to focus on addressing the country’s underlying issues with migration, energy, resources and climate change. The Commission has initiated the Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan (MSNP-II). The focus of MSNP-II is to provide nutrition education, improve health and population management and implement sustainable agriculture practices.

There is still a lot of work to do, but hunger in Nepal continues to decline due to the efforts of those who care. While there are still many who go without, there are also many who can now properly eat and feed their families. With careful planning, Nepal will not only be able to provide for its people but change the course of its agricultural plans to protect against the risks of future natural disasters. 

– Nicolette Schneiderman
Photo: Flickr

Himalayan Cataract ProjectIn 1995, Dr. Geoff Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit launched the Himalayan Cataract Project to eliminate curable and preventable blindness in under-resourced Himalayan communities. The two founded their innovative campaign after recognizing that cataracts account for 70% of unnecessary blindness in Nepal. Cataracts, or cloudy, opaque areas in the eye that block light entry, occur naturally with age. Poor water quality, malnutrition and disease tend to exacerbate the issue in developing countries.

For years, Dr. Tabin and Dr. Ruit had seen Nepalese villagers take blindness as a death sentence. “It was just accepted that you get old, your hair turns white, your eyes turn white, you go blind and you die,” Dr. Tabin told the Stanford Medicine magazine. But after Dutch teams arrived in Nepal to perform cataract surgery, he explained, “People came back to life. It was amazing.”

The Strategy

The Himalayan Cataract Project delivers sight-restoring cataract surgery at a low cost. Dr. Ruit’s groundbreaking procedure lasts 10 minutes and costs just $25. Today the organization has succeeded in providing permanent refractive correction for well over 500,000 people.

In an effort to leave a more sustainable impact, the project works from a “train the trainer” model that empowers community health providers and enhances local eye care centers. Rather than simply treating patients in need, specialists introduce new methods and technology to strengthen the practices of existing clinics.

As a result of these and other advances, the blindness rate in Nepal has plummeted to 0.24%, similar to that of Western countries. The Himalayan Cataract Project now operates in India, Tibet and Myanmar. Dr. Tabin has also initiated training programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ethiopia. He hopes to see the same successes here as achieved in Asia.

The Link Between Blindness and Poverty

Addressing blindness is a critical step in the fight against poverty. Blindness prevents able-bodied workers from supporting themselves, shortens lives and reduces the workforce. Children of blind parents often stay home from school as they scramble to fulfill the duties of household caregivers and providers. In short, blindness worsens poverty, while poverty magnifies the risk of blindness.

The Himalayan Cataract Project aims to break the cycle of blindness and poverty. Studies have shown a 400% return on every dollar that the organization invests in eradicating curable and preventable blindness. Their procedures stimulate the economy by helping patients get back to work.

Individual success stories continue to power the organization. Adjoe, a 40-year-old mother from Togo, traveled to Ghana for surgery when she determined that her blind eye was hurting business. As a street vendor selling beans, she saw customers avoid her stand for fear of contagion. She consulted Dr. Boteng Wiafe, a partner of the Himalayan Cataract Project, who performed oculoplastic surgery and gave her a prosthetic eye. Carefully matching the prosthetic to the size, color and shape of her good eye, Dr. Wiafe ensured that Adjoe could return home to provide for her family once again.

Response to COVID-19

In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a halt to live clinical training and elective surgeries, but the backlog of blindness continues to grow worldwide. Meanwhile, concerns about the virus may dissuade blind patients from seeking treatment for the next several years.

While eye care has been suspended, the Himalayan Cataract Project is using this time to redesign and restructure their programs so as to emerge even stronger than before. The organization is also working to equip partner clinics with information and resources to keep their patients safe. Some communities have even taken part in the shift to remote education and implemented a virtual training system.

Despite the uncertainty of the months ahead, the Himalayan Cataract Project remains firm in its commitment to fighting blindness and poverty. Its partner clinics around the globe have been tireless in their efforts to affirm that the poor and vulnerable will receive the eye care they need once patients can receive in-person treatment again.

Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health in NepalNepal is a landlocked country bordering India and China, with a population of approximately 30 million. With close to 80% of births occurring at home, maternal health in Nepal has become a focal point as mortality rates raised alarmingly.

4 Facts About Maternal Health in Nepal

  1. The maternal mortality rate saw a reduction of about 71% between the years 1990 and 2015. The decline is attributed to free delivery services and transport, access to safe delivery services, and medicines that prevent hemorrhaging.
  2. Midwives are one of the popular professional services for maternal health in Nepal. Fast intervention and postnatal suggestions from a skilled midwife allows for better care for both mother and child after birth. In Nepal, only about 27% of women receive care within 24 hours of giving birth. This makes way for hemorrhaging, heavy-lifting related injuries shortly after giving birth and complications for the baby during and directly after birth.
  3. To ensure that midwives are updated on the most current practices and procedures for successful pregnancy and birthing, midwifery education is imperative. Institutions have partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to offer combined education for nursing and midwifery. Midwives do not have specific legislation for their work. They are not completely recognized under the law or regulated, creating issues with proper training and resources. Therefore, greater recognition and accessibility will allow midwives the resources, training and encouragement that they need for success.
  4. The National Medical College Teaching Hospital in Nepal published an extensive report of the challenges surrounding maternal health in Nepal. A specific challenge mentioned in this report includes the socio-economic influencers of maternal health. Due to poor nutritional health in women with lower economic status, issues like anemia that cause mortalities. Additionally, rural areas record about 280 birth complications per day.

As maternal health in Nepal becomes more of a focus in the healthcare system, certain policies and programs must be expanded. Midwifery education and access to services are the most important programs for successful maternal health in Nepal. Many experts and those in the field continue to push for individual programs that focus primarily on methods for successful midwives.

– Ashleigh Litcofsky
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