By Ayush SJB Rana

Nepal is the poorest country in South Asia and ranks as the twelfth poorest country in the world. However, over the last decade the country has made considerable progress reducing poverty but is still falling behind. Urban poverty declined from 22% to 10% and rural poverty declined from 43% to 35%.

About four-fifths of the working population live in rural areas and depend on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. In these areas the majority of households have little or no access to primary health care, education, clean drinking water, and sanitation services. Life is a constant struggle for survival.

Some poor families in Nepal are often obliged to send their children to work rather than to school. In this way, the poverty cycle is perpetuated into the next generation. It is estimated that about one quarter of children in Nepal between four and five years old are engaged in some kind of family or wage labor.

In Nepal, less than half of the population has access to safe drinking water and about half the children below five years of age are underweight. The average age that people live in Nepal is about 54 years while countries like Canada have achieved life expectancy of about 80 years. This is mainly due to the lack of clean water, poverty, and unavailability of basic health care.
In the past, education in Nepal was not available to everyone; it was rather restricted to the ruling families. Since 1951, things have changed radically, and to this day the Nepalese government is continually committed to the improvement, development, and expansion of education in Nepal. However, there are severe problems in how education is delivered in Nepal.

In 1990, there was a change of government in Nepal. A fair and democratic system was supposed to take root. But people in power were listening to all the foreign countries who give aid and loan to Nepal, and they were not listening to the people of Nepal. Foreign countries asked Nepal to privatize everything, and Nepal did it. They introduced private education from kindergarten to university level. Suddenly, rich had good education but poor had education even worse than before. This created big social problems in Nepal and a decade-long war ensued starting in 1996. The main cause of this war was a feeling of injustice towards the poor and rural people. Children born in poor families in Nepal still do not have access to proper education, and almost two-thirds of the adult population in Nepal cannot read or write.

There is much to be thought about before we can develop proper ideas to reduce poverty in Nepal. Many things have to be done correctly for this to happen. But, that does not mean that we cannot initiate something little today such as providing books or educational materials to students or educating those beyond Nepal’s borders about some of the struggles they face. If we think about it, there is quite a lot we can do to help including utilizing unused land for new endeavors, promoting tourism, and finding exportable goods. Although Nepal is poor, it shouldn’t just be known for the poverty. There are lots of natural resources that are both beautiful and potentially lucrative, and could be used to decrease poverty.