Causes

Securing a brighter future for the children of Nepal

We believe sustainable development requires a balanced approach. We engage and consult with each community, with an emphasis on six key pillars of development: Education, Child Safety, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Conservation and Economic Development. These six pillars stand on a foundation of good governance and we are committed to improving governance at every touch point.

Education

In 2007[1], and again in 2014[2] the World Bank reported that despite improvements in basic access to education in Nepal, especially for girls and children in ‘the most backwards regions of the country’ in the Mid-West and Far-West, schooling remains poor. Nepal’s primary school completion rates have improved significantly from only 38 per cent in 2003/04[1] but had reached only around 70% in 2012[2]. Almost a million children have never enrolled or have dropped out of school.

Average learning levels in Nepal are low, with a large number of primary-school students mastering little more than basic literacy and numeracy. Data averages for Nepal as a whole include the many private schools and higher quality public schools located in the Central Region, around Kathmandu. Consequently they tend to overstate the performance and opportunities for children in rural, and especially remote areas. Mean student achievement in English, Nepali and Mathematics are lower in Eastern Nepal than every region except the most disadvantaged Far-Western region.

The children of the mountains perhaps face even greater obstacles than their peers in towns, cities and more accessible lands. These relate to the difficulty for students of accessing school, limited resources due to difficulties in transporting materials to the school (e.g. only traditional building materials and energy resources, limited teaching resources), limited communications (e.g. expensive satellite phone), the relative isolation for teachers and students from their families and friends.

HDFA aims to improve access to schooling, improve the quality of teaching and learning and community engagement in and through schools and education.

Child Safety

The disadvantages of poverty and illiteracy can make Nepalese women and girls, and also men and boys, vulnerable to human trafficking[3].

For 2012 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that for Nepal the reported proportion of human trafficking victims who were children was about 50 per cent[4]. Sexual exploitation was the most frequent form of trafficking, although trafficking for forced labour or other forms of trafficking were also relatively frequent, and trafficking for organ removal was also reported. HDFA is also aware of a practice of vulnerable families sending children to Kathmandu orphanages with the promise of education and a better life, when in fact the opportunities available may be significantly exaggerated, and the managers of the facilities may benefit unreasonably[5].

HDFA is not aware of specific incidences in its initial focus area in the upper reaches of the Kanchenjunga region around Ghunsa, but understands that the risk may be higher for people living lower in the valley. Economic disadvantage and the lack of local opportunities for young people can lead to a whole continuum of risks to which young people and their families are naïve.

HDFA’s efforts in education, health and sustainable economic development with supporting infrastructure are building the knowledge and capacity of local communities. This will include attention to questions of child safety.

Healthcare

Nepal spends 5.3% of gross domestic product on health, about $64 per person, and has 2 doctors of modern medicine per 10 000 population (compared to 1 GP for every 500- 1000 in population in Australia).

70% of all medical issues are communicable diseases, i.e. infections. (In Australia about 80% is chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, smoking and alcohol related issues.) Nepalese children suffer in particular with perinatal conditions, acute respiratory illnesses, diarrhoea and measles. The elderly have TB at disproportionately high rates. Women have issues with childbirth, pregnancy and burns. Overall the health indicators are poor and life expectancy is just over 60. Infant mortality (death in first year of life) is about 65 per 1000, 12 times higher than in Australia.

Immunization rates in 2005 in Nepal were actually reasonably respectable (around 83-89% for Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Whooping Cough, Measles and Polio). However coverage rates of 95% are required to eradicate these diseases. It is also likely that there is a sampling bias toward the populated areas, and that more remote areas, with difficult or intermittent access to health services, the figures would be lower.

HDFA aims to improve access to health care for the mountain people of the Himalayas, to improve reliability and access to immunisation, maternal and child health care, assistance for chronic and acute illness and injury, and medicines and medical supplies.

Conservation

The mountainous regions of Nepal include several conservation zones with various levels of protection. The forests of the area provide vital fuel for heating and cooking to the local communities, however they are vulnerable to increases in usage which might potentially come with increased population density, population overall or visitor numbers. The traditional use of wood fuel also poses a risk to the health of people due to household air pollution[6].

There is currently a low awareness of environmental and sustainability matters, which may put environment, health and livelihood at risk. An example of the risk is the deforestation that was (perhaps exaggeratedly) reported in the Khumbu region with its increasing popularity with trekkers between the 1960s and 1990s[7].

Other challenges that need to managed while advancing economic development include the risk of fertile land being consumed by unplanned growth, risks to water and air quality, damage to the sensitive ecosystems of the alpine and sub-alpine zones and potential social inequity which can arise without community forethought.

HDFA aims to work with local mountain communities to understand and plan their resources use and mitigate risks to the environment.

Infrastructure

HDHA is interested in functional infrastructure, such as a new purpose-built building in Ghunsa to house pupils, and thereby allow them to attend school for the first time, or with more ease.  This will also provide respite to the teachers who currently care for informal live-in students round the clock. Improvements to cold, dark, unwelcoming school buildings are also expected to improve life for teachers and students and thereby improve engagement and quality of teaching and  learning.

Economic Development

The main occupation in the mountains of Nepal is agriculture, including gardening, animal husbandry and collection of wood and grass for fuel and fodder. Some families conduct trade over the high passes with Tibet/China. A number of families host visitors. People from these communities also work as porters, sherpas or cooks in the trekking/tourism industry, and as (often manual) workers in Kathmandu or internationally. Thus economic opportunities are relatively limited, though tourism offers a potential growth area.

Traditional families can be quite large, leading to a squeeze on resources, both while children are young, and as they grow to maturity. Some children can assist their parents, others may join monastic communities, but the lack of local opportunities leads some youth to depart for cities and other countries (such as Thailand and the Middle East) where lowly paid work or even indentured labour may seem more attractive than a life of scarcity at home.

There are several barriers to economic development including the remote location and poor transport and communication infrastructure, a lack of basic education among the population, lack of awareness of business principles, lack of capital and means of accessing capital, due to the preceding factors.

HDFA is working with local communities to identify and develop alternative economic opportunities.

 

 

[1] Attaining the Health and Education Millennium Development Goals in Nepal. The World Bank 2007. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTSARREGTOPLABSOCPRO/Resources/AttainingMDGsNepal.pdf

[2] Dunbar, Halil, Tara Béteille, Michelle Riboud and Anil Deolalikar. 2014.Student Learning in South Asia: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Prorities. Directions in Development. Washington, D.C: World Bank doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-0160-0. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2014/05/23/000442464_20140523133319/Rendered/PDF/882670PUB0978100Box385205B00PUBLIC0.pdf

[3] Subedi, G. (2009). Trafficking In Girls And Women In Nepal For Commercial Sexual Exploitation: Emerging Concerns And Gaps. Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies, 16(1/2), 121–146.

[4] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Global Report On Trafficking In Persons 2012 p 70 http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/Trafficking_in_Persons_2012_web.pdf

[5] Nepal’s Orphan Trade, by Evan Williams, SBS http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/about/id/601840/n/Nepal-s-Orphan-Trade

[6] WHO, www.canepal.org.uk

[7] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Nepal: Khumbu Himal, Sherpas and Landscape Change” http://www.fao.org/forestry/11715-080bcbdde08015ca51d39b5f092d53634.pdf

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