Poverty is a significant and growing concern in Nepal. The country’s Finance Ministry estimated that 21.6 percent of Nepal’s population, or 6 million Nepalis, are living under the poverty line. This makes Nepal one of the most impoverished countries in South Asia.

Poverty In Nepal

High poverty rates have numerous implications. Nepal has an extremely high infant mortality rate. Per 1,000 live births in Nepal, 34.5 children die before the age of 5. Poverty contributes to this significantly, as many of these lives likely could have been saved with greater hygiene standards and access to healthcare.

Over 50,000 children die every year in Nepal with malnutrition accounting for over 60 percent of the deaths. A total of half of the children in Nepal are underweight. Rates of disease and death in pregnant women are also high due to lack of access to healthcare and poor hygiene.

Considerable amounts of political unrest and conflict in Nepal have contributed to the poverty issue. Schools have been forced to close or teachers go on strike, which leads to a shortened school year for the Nepali children. Living in a conflict zone also makes it much more difficult for children to travel to and from school.


Thankfully, there are many non-profits out there that work to make a difference in the world of poverty. SAMBHAV in Nepal is one of them. This organization utilizes youth clubs and training programs to alleviate the burdens of poverty, specifically for teens and women. These initiatives lead to reforms in education and healthcare, to name a few.

Past projects have included a drinking water project in which SAMBHAV rebuilt the water systems in villages and schools after the earthquake in Nepal in 2015. This venture led to increased access to clean drinking water in impoverished communities leading to better hygiene and fewer diseases for those living in poverty.

SAMBHAV and Education

Providing quality education is also essential in alleviating poverty. SAMBHAV in Nepal has reconstructed schools and moved them to more convenient locations in order to increase attendance. For example, when Dharapani Secondary School first began, it only had 10 students. The school was destroyed by an earthquake in 1987 and was poorly rebuilt.

SAMBHAV brought attention to this project’s needs, and in 2010, it was rebuilt by The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Dharapani Secondary School was completely reconstructed with a new toilet facility installed. In addition, multiple teacher training programs were implemented to increase the quality of the school’s education system. Dharapani Secondary School now has around 400 students.

SAMBHAV has included the reconstruction of another school in its current projects in Nepal’s. The Bhairabi Primary School was also damaged after the earthquake and was in desperate need of reconstruction. Phase I of the project, which was finished in April of 2017, included three newly constructed classrooms in addition to three renovated old classrooms and three new toilets. Phase II is now underway and is set to consist of rebuilding a five-block classroom and adding three more toilets.  

Thanks to the efforts of SAMBHAV, children in Nepal have brighter futures in the face of poverty.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Fund for Refugee EducationThe United Nations will debut a new humanitarian fund for refugee education, named Education Cannot Wait, at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

The fund’s name conveys the urgency of providing continued education for about 30 million displaced children worldwide—especially since the total number of refugees has reached its highest levels since 1945.

Considering that an average refugee stays about ten years in a foreign country, Education Cannot Wait will offer a five-year curriculum. Although based on a traditional primary school model, it will also adopt experimental methods like online learning in order to reach the greatest number of children.

The initiative offers an extension to the education supports recently promised to Syrian refugee children. In early 2016, the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) under UNICEF launched the No Lost Generation initiative that includes long-term efforts to rehabilitate displaced communities through school education and civic engagement programs.

As a result, 442,000 children across Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt gained access to a formal education.

Education Cannot Wait will also target areas such as Nepal, where 900,000 children lost access to education after the earthquake in 2015, as well as South Sudan and Nigeria, where rates of enrolled students remain low due to frequent internal conflicts.

While the majority of refugees in these states are internally displaced and remain within their mother country, their hardship in finding basic resources and a stable education is equivalent to that of stateless persons.

UNESCO’s policy paper found that more than half of the world’s refugees living outside camps have also often been neglected from data documentation and support.

UN Special Envoy Gordon Brown told reporters that Education Cannot Wait “will be the first to bridge the gap between humanitarian aid and development aid.”

Currently, the UN invests less than two percent of emergency funding to education, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – the new program aims to raise total budget of $3.85 billion.

This first humanitarian fund for refugee education is to be funded by a collaboration between private sector enterprises and over 100 philanthropists.

Haena Chu

Photo: Flickr

Nepal Earthquake
The 2015 Nepal earthquake left over 1 million children without a school. A little over a year has passed since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed thousands.

However, unrepaired damage continues to plague the country. The scope of the damage and political difficulties have meant much of the country still lies in rubble.

But the nation is making progress. Newly announced plans for reconstruction have set a three-year timeline for various progress goals, with education infrastructure named a top priority.

The Nepal earthquake destroyed 17,000 classrooms of nearly 8,000 schools, and the aftershocks damaged an additional 20,000 classrooms. While the donations obtained as of April 2016 tallied approximately $200 million, this was sufficient to repair only 1,700 schools.

Due to limited funding, the initial rebuilding efforts will focus primarily on education infrastructure in the hardest hit regions of the country. Over the course of three years, the national government hopes to accomplish significant rebuilding.

The overall economic impact of the earthquake on Nepal is estimated at nearly $7 billion. The country’s long history of political tension, combined with the magnitude of reparations needed, has led to an atmosphere of political urgency.

These tensions have aggravated preexisting political divides and slowed down measures to hasten reconstruction. Frustration with the situation has led to protests following the earthquake, making the need for efficient rebuilding of education infrastructure all the more urgent.

In the months following the earthquake, many students had to use temporary classrooms. These classrooms are not strong enough to withstand heavy Nepal weather (including monsoons). However, students have already used them for an entire winter season.

For those involved in the rebuilding efforts of prior learning spaces, avoiding the continued use of these classrooms is a top priority in order to provide students with a safe and stable learning environment.

The Nepal government continues to seek methods for resolving political differences and hastening reconstruction as much as possible. However, the three year-plan emphasizing education infrastructure represents major progress.

Additionally, humanitarian development organizations such as Plan International have contributed in the wake of the disaster. The organization recognized the importance of this project and hence began a classroom-rebuilding initiative.

Plan International seeks to rebuild 20 of the schools that the Nepal earthquake destroyed. They also plan to repair 1,600 damaged classrooms.

In order to further extend the positive impact of these schools, the buildings will have reinforcements that can withstand tough weather conditions. Additionally, Plan International will provide extreme weather training for students and teachers.

The students who lost their learning spaces in the Nepal earthquake will gain more than a building from this project.

They also represent increased safety for students. Schools not only provide education, but they also operate as a safe space. This rebuilding project could enact a decline in exploitation, child marriage and trafficking threats.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: CNN

The United Nations World Food Program announced on Wednesday a shift from emergency response efforts to long-term recovery efforts in Nepal.

The announcement signaled an end to nearly two months of emergency response efforts conducted by both Nepal’s government and multiple allies from across the globe after a large portion of the country was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25.

Serving as the largest humanitarian aid agency in the world, the WFP works to assist nearly 100 million people in 75 countries each year and participates in fighting extreme poverty, providing emergency assistance and improving infrastructure and health systems within developing communities.

Richard Ragan, Emergency Coordinator for the WFP’s response in Nepal, stated in an interview this week, “We have started the difficult transition from the emergency period to the early recovery phase – providing cash, employment and rebuilding opportunities for people heavily impacted by the disaster.” Ragan noted that the WFP has successfully provided meals to nearly 2 million displaced citizens since the disaster.

The WFP has implemented a highly effective cash-for-work program in severely affected areas, which pays citizens to build transitional housing and repair agricultural centers and, in turn, revitalizes local markets and economies. The United Nations estimates that 20,000 porters who became displaced and unemployed by the earthquake are now receiving income to repair essential road and trail networks damaged by the disaster, as well as provide vital supplies to isolated communities.

Despite the positive figures offered by this UN program, the WFP warned this week that the operations currently being conducted within Nepal are only 38 percent funded and that they require an additional $74 million in order to continue providing operational assistance until 2016.

In response to questions about the lack of funding, Ragan stated, “To maintain and expand an operation of this scope and logistical complexity, sustained financial support is required.”

– James Thornton

Sources: United Nations, World Food Programme
Photo: Flickr


Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson designated Temporary Protected Status to Nepal on June 24, 2015.

Temporary Protected Status is granted by the Secretary of Homeland Security when nationals of a country are unable to return to their country safely, or when a country cannot adequately handle nationals returning to their country. The Secretary of Homeland Security may grant Temporary Protected Status to a country that is experiencing a civil war, a country that has experienced an environmental disaster, or a country that is in other extraordinary and temporary situations.

In this case, Nepal experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015. Nepal ranks among the poorer countries in the world and has a GDP of about $19 billion and a population of 27.8 million. The earthquake has caused 1 million people to fall below the poverty line and has worsened existing poverty in Nepal.

More than 8,000 people died following the earthquake, and thousands were left homeless and without proper medical care. There are several temporary camps across the country, but many are without sufficient food and water. In addition, children and families have to worry about the threat of human trafficking, which has been made worse by the earthquake.

It is for these reasons that Temporary Protected Status to Nepal was designated. Nepalese nationals are allowed to apply and reside in the United States and possibly receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Nepalese nationals in the United States could also have the ability to travel and be protected from deportation. The Temporary Protected Status will last for 18 months and could possibly be extended further.

The ability of the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate a country for Temporary Protected Status is a way for countries to cooperate globally during or after a disastrous event. The United States can assist Nepalese nationals living within its borders and can also help Nepal by allowing Nepalese nationals to stay in the United States.

Nepal is working to improve conditions within the country with the help of humanitarian aid from other countries. Until then, Nepalese nationals can stay and work in the United States in order to remain safe following this crisis.

Ella Cady

Sources: BBC, United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Immigration Impact, Times of India, USCIS
Photo: The Guardian

Empact Northwest: Rapid Ready Response to Disaster - TBP
On April 25, a massive earthquake of magnitude 7.8 rocked the tiny country of Nepal. Widespread devastation resulted and the aftermath left hundreds of people entombed in concrete graves. As the international relief effort mobilized, smaller teams of volunteers responded from all over the world using money from their own pockets. One of these teams was Empact Northwest.

Empact Northwest, a nonprofit volunteer organization, hails from Kitsap County, Washington. They specialize in dispatching technical rescue operations locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to communities in need. The group’s motto is “Empathy in action” and on April 27, empathy turned into action when they deployed as Disaster Team 1 to Nepal.

The epicenter of the earthquake that struck Nepal was located in the Lamjung District northwest of Katmandu, a part of Gandaki Zone and one of the seventy-five districts of Nepal, a landlocked country in South Asia. The district, with Besisahar as its headquarters, covers an area of 1,692 squared kilometeres and has a population of 167,724, as of 2011. Lamjung mainly consists of agricultural villages.

After establishing an operation base in Katmandu, Disaster Team 1 became USA-11 by the United Nations Disaster Assistance Center (UNDAC) and were then assigned to the village of Lanmang. The team drove and hiked over rough terrain and demolished roads before they reached the village, where they provided rescue operations and conveyed vital assessment information to the UNDAC. Later, USA-11 partnered with a rescue group from Burnaby, British Columbia in the town of Barabise, conducting K-9 search and rescue tactics.

Empact Northwest is certainly not a newcomer to the international aid scene. The organization is only about five years old, but since its formation, inspired by work done after an earthquake in Haiti, it has been involved in numerous life-saving missions around the world. Empact Northwest offers technical rope and urban search and rescue as well as emergency medical services to disaster-stricken communities. Not only providing rescue, they also offer preventative education to at-risk populations.

In addition to the recent Nepal disaster, since 2010 Empact Northwest has responded to situations in Haiti, Pakistan, Japan, Sierra Leone and the Philippines, providing relief and rescue in catastrophes ranging from earthquakes to tsunamis. It also provides medical relief, logistics and educational mission projects.

Between catastrophes, Empact Northwest is not sitting around idly. The organization is working to provide emergency medical technician training to hundreds of people in Haiti in an attempt to help Haitians sustain a skilled medical work force.

There seems to be no shortage of tragedies in the world, but it is thanks to organizations like Empact Northwest that people are able to cope with these hardships as best they can. In just five short years, Empact Northwest has made an incredible contribution to the globe’s developing countries by saving lives in communities where poverty and hardship are made painfully worse by natural disasters.

– Jason Zimmerman

Sources: Empact Northwest, UNOCHA, CBS
Photo: Empact Northwest

On April 25, Nepal was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Approximately 9,000 people died. Thousands more were injured in the chaos as the country’s futile infrastructure system crumbled during the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. The United Nations estimated there was $7 billion in damage. A third of the country’s population was displaced and schools remained closed for five weeks.

The tiny Himalayan country bordered by India to the south and China to the north was never prepared to deal with such a disaster. According to the Human Development Index, Nepal ranks in the bottom quarter of countries. Per capita GPD is just over $1,000.

The country is perched on the fault line of the Eurasian and South Asian tectonic plates. Home to the tallest mountain range on earth, violent seismic activity is inevitable. However, the aforementioned poverty and lagging infrastructure exacerbated the wrath of April’s quake.

Over the past two decades, political instability engulfed the country. The Maoist rebellion that ended in 2005 overthrew a monarchy that had ruled for over three centuries. Political factions with competing interests have impeded the democratic process that the rebellion promised. The country still doesn’t have a constitution and has had nine prime ministers in the past eight years.

In April, the citizens paid dearly for the political instability. During the everlasting political gridlock, essential infrastructure investments became less of a priority to other agendas. Many citizens built their own homes without the oversight of structural engineers.

Although there have been efforts in recent years to strengthen building codes and train engineers, most citizens cannot afford the material or expertise. In an article by Time Magazine, a litany of civilians expressed frustration about their government’s lack of response. Some suburbs outside the capital Kathmandu were not reached until international relief entered the country, weeks after the disaster. People had nothing to eat, nowhere to go and limited access to medical treatment.

“Our government is totally unprepared to deal with this type of disaster,” explains Kshitiz Nyaupane, a local from Kathmandu. The burden of relief has fallen on the international community. The World Food Programme, U.S. Agency for International Development, along with monetary and material support from a dozen countries spearheaded relief efforts.

The citizens of Nepal have welcomed their presence. Thanks to aid, Nepal will recover. Now armed with $4.4 billion in international relief, the Nepalese government will initiate a massive rebuilding project for the most devastated portions of the country.

These donations come with a requirement, however. Donors implored the Nepalese government to finalize a constitution to create the elusive political stability. With reconstruction, donors want infrastructure that is equipped to handle the strongest earthquakes and aftershocks.

Caroline Baudot, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Policy Advisor, told the International Press Service in a recent interview that this earthquake, despite the tragedy and suffering it has caused, opens opportunity. “This is the golden ticket for the Nepalese government. With the influx of aid, they will be able to get off their feet, make needed infrastructure investments and set up a more promising economic future than there was before.”

Kevin Meyers

Sources: Global Issues, KSL, Time 1, Time 2
Photo: Global Issues


The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to enable people to freely develop geospatial data. In short, it is the Wikipedia of mapping. Entirely operated on volunteer power, any individual can map an area of their choice to add and maintain data. OpenStreetMap is open data, meaning anyone can use it as long as they are credited.

In April of 2015, mappers leaped into action to help with the Nepal earthquake. Within hours, volunteers had Nepal mapped in much greater detail than ever before. Using areal imagery, GPS devices and low-tech field maps, the OpenStreetMap volunteers created a thorough and accurate map for disaster relief organizations to use.

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team partners with relief organizations to map the areas that need immediate aid the most. Because of these efforts, disaster relief organizations can act quickly with knowledge of how to locate people at risk and how to best deliver goods and services.

Halfway across the world, a couple of civil engineering students at the University of Washington chipped in using OpenStreetMaps to help with Nepalese disaster relief. One graduate student James Lew describes his experience saying, “There’s a tendency to want to do the major cities and the infrastructure that’s closest to the major highways, but as you get further and further out, there’s still houses out there that are dis­con­nected. It’s really cool to draw a box around them and say, ‘there’s a family here, don’t forget them.’”

Mapping has a profound role in humanitarian aid. Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL) is a small nonprofit that creates active “crisis maps” using OpenStreetMap data and real-time data submission. KLL created that allows people in the field to report in real-time what areas need the most aid. KLL then highlights the areas, showing humanitarian aid organizations where they should focus their attention.

Although the organization is small, KLL’s live crisis map has been incredibly valuable to nongovernmental organizations, the local government and even the Nepalese Army in the weeks after the earthquake. Real-time mapping has given relief workers a new edge in delivering quick and efficient help after a crisis.

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: Forbes, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Kathmandu Living Labs, University of Washington
Photo: Kathmandu Living Labs

After the devastating earthquakes in Nepal this past April, the co-founder of SunFarmer, Jason Gray, stepped into action. SunFarmer is a nonprofit organization that provides “robust solar energy” to communities removed from a major energy grid. They make solar energy systems called solar lanterns, to help individuals use sunlight as a key resource for renewable energy.

Gray believes that solar energy is leapfrogging the electrical grid in developing countries, just like the mobile phone leapfrogged the landline. SunFarmer offers affordable, risk-free energy for education, health and water projects. Their disaster relief in Nepal is focused on electricity generation systems for hospitals and relief centers.

In Nepal, an individual solar lantern can provide energy for a household, or better yet, three lanterns can power an entire hospital. These solar lanterns provide stable, constant energy to the hospitals, even though dramatic weather changes.

After the earthquakes, disaster relief came quickly to Nepal and medical supplies were donated, however, they could not be used until there was power, which is exactly what SunFarmer supplied. These renewable energy lanterns were essential in the disaster relief, as they supplied stability and reliability when it was most needed.

SunFarmer is focusing its attention on hospitals and water projects. When the earthquakes hit, they immediately mobilized 1,300 solar lanterns, 90 portable chargers and 2 water purification systems. In the following weeks, they raised approximately $3 million to allocate to Nepal for relief, mainly focused on providing water and electricity, but also helped import goods.

Back in 2009, Gray launched the first large-scale solar power project in Canada that proved to be successful, which showed him the possibilities for their use in developing countries. Gray is looking to expand his business to other developing areas, in hopes of helping before any disaster hits. Specifically, he is looking at rural agricultural areas that are stuck in the poverty cycle because they lack a reliable energy source needed for irrigation.

SunFarmer’s long-term goal is to power 4,000 hospitals, schools and water projects, impacting 7 million people, by 2020. They hope to make energy an affordable resource for people in developing countries.

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: CBC News, The Globe and Mail
Photo: Else Canada