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


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.


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

Youth Education in Nepal
Nepal is a landlocked country located in South Asia. Much of the country’s population of 29 million lives in rural and distant places, making it difficult for youth education in Nepal to be reachable for the entirety of the country. Successful steps have been made in improving youth educational development through various nonprofit organizations and government programs.

Nepal in Numbers

Nepal is one of the least developed countries in Asia, ranking at 149th place out of 189 countries by the 2017 U.N. Human Development Index. According to the Asian Development Bank, about 25 percent of the population was living on less than $1 per day in 2011.

Nepal has many rural and distant communities that do not have a solid educational system. About 83 percent of the population lives in rural areas and 14 percent of the population is characterized as living in remote areas. Data from 2006 show that 76 percent of the Terai Dalits, 62 percent of Muslims and 45 percent of the Hill ethnic group did not attend school.

Despite the situation not being so good currently, it is safe to say that Nepal has seen a great improvement in education rates in the last few decades. The number of students enrolled in primary schools grew from 400,000 in 1971 to 3.9 million in 2001. Secondary school admittance increased from 120,000 in 1971 to 1.5 million in 2001, and the literacy rates improved drastically, from 20.6 percent of the population in 1981 to 64.7 percent in 2015.

Government expenditure for education was at 16.1 percent of the country’s budget in 2014-2015. Meanwhile, parents are spending close to 50 percent of their households budgets on the education of their children. In 2004, only 6 percent of the educational budget was used for higher education.

My Education…My Hope

Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), Qatar’s leading nonprofit education development system launched the “My Education…My Hope” fundraising campaign in 2014, with the goal of providing educational resources to vulnerable children in Palestine, Yemen, Pakistan, Nepal and Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The program implemented in Nepal will focus on providing resources to rural communities who desperately need the support. It is estimated that 50,000 Nepalese children will benefit from this project by improving the quality of youth education in Nepal and educational facilities, as well as by creating innovative educational solutions.

The Earthquake Consequences on Education

In April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, causing serious damage to the country’s infrastructure. It was estimated that over 8,000 schools were damaged. This had huge consequences on youth education. Even before the earthquake struck, attendance in primary schools in Nepal, according to UNICEF, was 96.2 percent for males and 91.4 percent for females. This natural disaster made it even harder for kids to attend schools.

In response to these issues, the government set up 8,000 Transitional Learning Centres, and another 4,000 were set up by different nonprofit organizations. The Asian Development Bank has pledged over $110 million and the Japan International Cooperation Agency has pledged $112 million for reconstruction of schools in Nepal in the near future.

National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) help start the School Earthquake Safety Program (SESP), with the initiative of making schools more earthquake safe, as well as educating families on earthquake safety. The program has completely reconstructed close to 300 schools to better withstand earthquake activity. Since schools are oftentimes used as community shelters during emergencies, ensuring the safety of these institutions is important for the children, but for the adults as well.

Youth education in Nepal has improved in all aspects during the last few decades, thanks to the joint effort of the government and various nonprofit organizations. While there is still work to be done in educating people in rural areas, nonprofits have been instrumental in giving resources to schools to protect them from natural disasters, ensuring the continuous and safe education.

– Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Nepal
Nepal, located in the Himalayas and parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, boasts eight of the world’s 10 highest peaks, ancient golden temples and a very rich history. However, this South Asian country also suffers from high rates of poverty, and as a consequence, hunger. Malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world. In the text below, the top 10 facts about hunger in Nepal are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Nepal

  1. One in four people in Nepal lives below the national poverty line that is just 50 cents per day. People that live under the poverty line do not have enough money to meet their basic needs like food, clothing and shelter.
  2. Those who live in mountainous, more rural areas are the most likely to suffer from poverty and hunger that affects the country.
  3. The 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI) found that 7.8 percent of Nepal’s population was undernourished. Nepal is ranked 72 out of 118 countries in the GHI, and the report rates Nepal’s hunger at 21.9, which falls into the category of serious. However, these numbers are lower than they have been in past years since 2000, GHI ranked Nepal’s hunger at 43.1.
  4. Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) which is Zero Hunger, is a very important goal for the country. The prevalence of malnutrition among children under the age of 5 was 9.7 percent in 2016.
  5. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), stunting is defined as “the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.” Children can be viewed as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median. More than 35 percent of children under the age of 5 in Nepal are stunted, according to the research done in accordance with SDG. 
  6. Agriculture provides work to 68 percent of Nepal’s population and accounts for 34 percent of the country’s GDP, yet food is in low supply for Nepali citizens.
  7. Nepalese children who are stunted suffer from a variety of severe mental and health issues, especially in the first 1,000 days of their lives. These issues can reflect on their adult life, specifically on poor cognition, nutritional issues and even low wages.
  8. Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative have been very successful in its work in Nepal. Since 2011, there has been a 24 percent increase in the prevalence of children younger than the age of 2 receiving a minimum acceptable diet.
  9. The government and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) introduced the Zero Hunger Challenge in 2014, with the goal of eradicating all hunger issues in Nepal by 2025.
  10. The Zero Hunger Challenge consists of five goals:
    • All food systems are sustainable: from production to consumption.
    • An end to rural poverty. Double small-scale producer incomes and productivity.
    • Adapt all food systems to eliminate loss or waste of food.
    • Access adequate food and healthy diets, for all people, all year round.
    • An end to malnutrition in all its forms.

Many experts that the above-mentioned goals of Zero Hunger Challenge are unlikely to be met by 2025.

These top 10 facts about hunger in Nepal presented in the text above illustrate that the country has made a lot of progress in its goals to eliminate hunger, but it still has a long way to go. The joint efforts of the government and nongovernmental organizations can certainly be the key to eradicating poverty and improving the economic situation in the country.

– Evann Orleck-Jetter
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Nepal
The world’s tallest mountains and most remote areas exist in Nepal, a landlocked country caught between India and China. As a new democracy, Nepal is still trying to become a stable nation after years of war and environmental catastrophe. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Nepal:

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Nepal

  1. Nepal is a country of almost 30 million people, more than 3 million of whom live below the poverty line. Almost 80 percent of Nepal’s population live in rural areas, and 75 percent of Nepal’s population works in the agrarian sector.
  2. Due to lack of funding throughout the country, internet access, adequate roads, electricity, safe infrastructure, ATMs and adequate healthcare are all hard to find in Nepal. Nepal does have great hydropower potential, and new partnerships with China should help to create jobs and stabilize Nepal’s energy access.
  3. Nepal is currently trying to rebuild after two earthquakes within a month of each other decimated the infrastructure and killed 9,000 people in 2015. Problems were compounded in 2017 by extreme flooding during the monsoon season
  4. Shortly after the catastrophic earthquakes of 2015, Nepal suffered economically due to an Indian-enforced blockade at the border between the two countries. Nepal is heavily dependent on India as its biggest trade partner. The blockades lasted more than four months, dropping more than 30 percent of Nepal’s imports and exports during the chaotic months following the earthquakes.
  5. Nepal faced a civil war that lasted from the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s, causing great administrative turmoil and resulting in crimes against humanity. Almost 17,000 people died in the bloody conflict. The civil war came about as communists railed against the Nepalese Monarchy, which transitioned multiple times in and out of absolutism and constitutionalism until it was abolished in 2007. Hopefully, stability is on the horizon after the ratification of a new constitution finally took place in 2015.
  6. Local elections in 2017 were the first in twenty years. BBC reported many at the ballot boxes hoping that these elections were the beginning of a new era in Nepal’s government and would lead to a crackdown on corruption.
  7. There is still a lot of progress to be made for women’s rights in Nepal. Almost 40 percent of Nepalese girls are married before they are 18 years old. Fewer than 50 percent of Nepalese women are literate while more than 70 percent of Nepalese men are literate. The Nepalese government is taking steps to end gender inequality, though. In March 2016, Nepal launched a Girl Summit aimed at ending child marriage, and the new Nepalese government has a reserved number of seats specifically for women.
  8. Although the Nepalese government has been plagued by turnover, administrative turmoil and mired in corruption, more than 300 different nongovernmental organizations are on the ground making efforts to rebuild Nepalese homes and infrastructure and improve Nepalese lives. The U.S. has also ended the Temporary Protected Status originally issued to the Nepalese who were in The U.S. during the 2015 earthquakes, meaning The U.S. government believes the country has recovered enough to be safe and stable enough for Nepalese to return.
  9. Many young Nepalese men emigrate to The Persian Gulf to find work because the agrarian economy cannot support the Nepalese population. Men who do emigrate for work are investing in their children’s education. They’re being exposed to new ways of life and bringing 25 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product from abroad officially; although, unofficially, it could be as much as 40 percent. This influx of foreign money is being used to build solid homes and purchase goods that help rural Nepalese have a better understanding of the world at large, such as radios and TVs. Nepal has passed legislation stating foreign countries that wish to employ Nepalese workers must pay for their visas and travel costs in order to keep Nepalese workers from falling into crippling debt at the hands of third-party recruiting and employment agencies. It is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to ensure the safety of Nepalese citizens when working abroad.
  10. The tourism industry is starting to bounce back after movies like Everest (2015), Free Solo (2018) and Dawn Wall (2018) have all shone a romantic light on the world of climbing and mountaineering. Historic Nepalese treks like the Annapurna circuit are becoming more and more accessible to the outside world. More than 5,000 tourists trekked the Annapurna circuit in 2015, and the numbers have only risen since.

As Nepal moves forward, the government will need to address the issues listed in the top 10 facts about living conditions in Nepal as well as many other problems that are born out of extreme poverty. With a new government at the helm and with international aid, Nepal has the chance to continue to make progress and become a thriving economy.

– Laura Landrum
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls' Education in Nepal
Nepal is one of nine Asian countries carrying the status of “least developed.” Any instability the country faced was intensified by the 2015 earthquake that killed over 6,000 people. One of the sectors tied to country’s much-needed development is, of course, education. To get a sense of the status of the education system in the country, in the text below the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Nepal are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Nepal

  1. In 2015, 48.05 percent of women older than 15 did not have any form of education. Of the total population aged 15 and older, 36.15 percent did not have any education. This rate increases with age as 91.61 percent of women in the age group from 60 to 64 did not have any form of education.
  2. Gender-separate bathrooms are only available in one-third of schools in Nepal. This deters some from attending school over concerns of modesty or, sometimes, inability to follow religious guidelines that require separation of toilets.
  3. A project conducted in recent years found that 72 percent of students in Nepal saw their peers involved in gender-related violent situations though only 55 percent took action against it. Thus, schools cannot be considered a safe space for female students.
  4. Forty-one percent of Nepali women between ages 20 and 24 are married before the age of 18. Child marriage is most prevalent among less educated, poor women. Improving female education may improve the childhood marriage rate.
  5. The practice of chhaupadi often prevents women from attending school. Chhaupadi involves the banishing of girls who are menstruating to sheds where they are forced to suffer alone and risk catching illnesses. This dangerous practice, which was legally banned in 2005, still persists.
  6. Only about 11.8 percent of Dalit (lowest caste in Nepal) women are in secondary school. This indicates that education is both an issue of gender and class division.
  7. In Nepal, 44 percent of primary school teachers are female. This is the most encouraging fact about girls’ education in the country since this suggests that there is something near gender equality in teaching professions. This fact may be encouraging to young school girls.
  8. Only about 25 percent of women in Nepal enroll in higher education and their presence is particularly weak in technical and vocational education programs. Instead, there are large numbers of women in, for example, health-related professions such as nursing. In other words, professions are somewhat gender-segregated in the country.
  9. Though the quality of education in Nepal is not high, school enrollment rates are increasing across genders. Since 1990, the primary school enrollment rate has increased from 64 to 96 percent. Nepal is working to improve its education system by providing wider access to education.
  10. The Government of Nepal has developed the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) that will last from 2016 to 2023. This plan is part of the country’s goal of graduating from the status of a least developed country by the year 2022. The plan will look to instigate growth in the Nepali education program and ensure quality education for all citizens.

In recent years, Nepal has faced great hardship. After the 2015 earthquake, the country faced the unwieldy challenge of rebuilding much of its infrastructure, including education facilities. Organizations like USAID supported this effort by helping the government establish temporary learning centers across the country.

Though Nepal faces great challenges, many are encouraged by some of the country’s efforts toward bettering its education system and promoting gender equity.

These 10 facts about girls’ education in Nepal suggest that though the country has a long way to go before being considered as well-developed, progress is being made in the education sector.

– Julia Bloechl

Photo: Flickr

After 20 years of battling trachoma, Nepal eliminated the disease as a public health issue, becoming the 6th country in the world to do so. This success was not the result of a new cure or vaccine, rather public health education and community health volunteers who reached impoverished areas that lack access to immediate health care services.

The Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHV), a network of over 50,000 female public health volunteers, played a significant role in the diagnosis and treatment of trachoma in Nepal, specifically in impoverished areas, strengthening the country’s response for this endemic. The nature of the program contrasts the clear disparities in gender equality present in Nepal, slowly mending public health access and education in parallel to gender inequality in South Asia’s poorest country.

What is the FCHV

FCHV is a network of female volunteers focused primarily on providing maternal and child health care services in impoverished areas of Nepal. The program was initiated in 1988 by Nepal’s first female health minister and originally was assigned to distribute and promote family planning commodities and education in an effort to decrease the country’s infant mortality rate.

As the program evolved, FCHV began encompassing other aspects of public health intervention, including vaccination, testing children for malnutrition and pneumonia, diagnosing infectious diseases and linking communities to health workers and facilities.

The program is now comprised of over 52,000 active volunteers, approximately one in 500 people, or one per ward designated by the Village Development Committee (a local administrative body). FCHV’s live in the wards they serve and must be married, according to the program’s guidelines. They are selected by local groups of women active in health activities, after which they receive 18 days of training on topics they will oversee as volunteers.

The program has been revised four times since its inception, defining its responsibility towards local governments and adding curative services and predefined health programs. FCHV receives the majority of its funding from two primary donor agencies, USAID and UNICEF, supplementing funding for education and training materials. Nepal’s government provides salary funds and materials for distribution, such as drugs, vitamins and vaccines.

FCHV, Nepal and Gender Inequality

The FCHV also provides new opportunities for impoverished women who otherwise wouldn’t be presented with a variety of occupational options. Approximately half of Nepal’s female population is literate which represents a very low number. Approximately 17 percent of Nepalese women have some secondary education, and nearly 75 percent of Nepal’s unpaid family labor force is female. A large portion of economically active Nepalese women has little to no access to economic resources.

Nepalese women and girls are often disadvantaged by practices such as early marriage and son-preference, seclusion of women, polygamy, segregation of women and girls during menstruation and stigmatization of widows. Nearly half of Nepal’s female population marries between the ages of 14 and 19.

By enabling women to become involved in their communities, FCHV sets an example for the future, leveling the playing field by educating women in health care, a universally distinguished and necessary occupational field. Education breeds empowerment and lifts people out of poverty.

FCHV’s Impact on Public Health in Nepal: Trachoma

FCHV maintains the national goal of health through public involvement, imparting knowledge regarding health-related issues through local institutions and populations while simultaneously empowering women. Its success in aiding the elimination of trachoma in Nepal is a testament to the program’s importance.

A 1981 health survey discovered that approximately 1 percent of all Nepalis were blind and cataracts and trachoma were the two main causes of this problem.

Trachoma is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. In rural areas, this bacteria is commonly spread by flies crawling on children’s faces. People are usually infected as young children, however, the permanent eye damage caused by trachoma typically sets in decades later. Trachoma prevalence rates among preschool-aged children exceed 60 percent. This risk is compounded by environmental factors including poor hygiene, water shortages and inadequate sanitation facilities. Eye damage and blindness caused by trachoma are irreversible.

Trachoma also places a substantial economic burden on affected individuals and communities since the economic cost of lost productivity is estimated at up to $5.3 billion annually. Controlling the disease releases huge portions of Nepal’s population from the financial strain of trachoma, providing them with more disposable income and monetary influence.

Although elimination as a public health issue does not refer to the complete elimination of the bacteria (elimination as a public health problem insinuates that fewer than 1 in 1,000 adults have vision loss and less than 5 percent of a country’s children display symptoms), the elimination of trachoma in Nepal paves the way for the country’s future medical endeavors.

The FCHV will continue to shape the way Nepal institutes public health initiatives, empowering and educating women in the process.

– Katherine Anastas
Photo: Flickr

Five Initiatives Focused on Reducing the Child Mortality Rate in Nepal
Reducing the child mortality rate in Nepal has been a top priority for the past several decades. In 1967, there were 285 deaths per 1,000 births that has decreased immensely to only 34 deaths per 1,000 births. The government of Nepal has taken significant steps towards decreasing child mortality in their country. 

National Vitamin A Program

In the 1990s, 2 to 8 percent of preschool-aged children had xerophthalmia or an extreme vitamin A deficiency. To combat this, the government of Nepal implemented the National Vitamin A program or NVAP.

This program delivered two rounds of Vitamin A a year to children in priority districts of the country that had a Vitamin A deficiency. From the years 1995 to 2000, this program decreased child mortality by 50 percent.

Chlorhexidine Program

In 2009, the government of Nepal (with USAID) implemented a chlorhexidine program in their country. The government advocated for this program and set it into the daily lives of many throughout the country.

Ever since this decision, the organization has trained healthcare workers and procured chlorhexidine tubes with the help of the Chlorhexidine Working Group. This program is estimated to have saved 9,600 infant lives since it began and will continue to help decrease child mortality in the country.

The Female Community Health Volunteer Program

This program was started in Nepal in the late 1980s to increase the outreach of health practices through volunteer workers. One of the main goals of this program is to decrease the under-5 mortality rate in Nepal.

The Female Community Health Volunteer Program aims to promote the use of certain health practices and educated on preventative health practices. The work done by the volunteers in this program has greatly decreased child mortality rate in Nepal.

Zinc Implementation

In 2005, USAID was requested by the Ministry of Health and Population to help integrate zinc into the government’s diarrhea management program. Their work has contributed to a 16 percent increase in zinc use in the country in only 3 years.

Zinc supplements can reduce the time of persistent diarrhea by around 25 percent. Diarrhea is one of the leading causes of child mortality in Nepal, with 12 percent of children five and younger experiencing the condition. Zinc supplements have decreased child mortality rate in Nepal.  

Skilled Birth Attendance

Skilled birth attendance has become more prevalent throughout the country in health facilities and birthing centers; in fact, about 65 percent of deliveries in Nepal are now assisted by SBAs.

Making this care so available to women giving birth has been an incentive for females to go in for check-ups and discuss the possible complications that could occur during delivery. These conversations have not only had a positive effect on decreasing maternal deaths, but they have also decreased child mortality in the country.   

Although addressing the child mortality rate in Nepal is still a work in progress, the government has made great strides towards combating such a horrible phenomenon. The implementation of each of these programs has saved many lives in Nepal and will continue to do so.

– Ronni Winter
Photo: Flickr