Nepal has over 30 million people living in a space slightly larger than Arkansas. The geography is extraordinary, but this creates serious challenges for subsistence farmers, for road construction, for health and education, and for everything else necessary to an improved standard of living.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, with annual per capita income around $700. 33% of people live below the poverty line, and 42% are unemployed. A 10-year guerilla insurgency has left the country full of scars: orphaned children, unchecked violence, people displaced from their homes, suffocating urbanization, rampant corruption and extortion, and intractable politics.
Nepal has had, on average, 1 government per year for the last 20 years. Road are crumbling, the capital faces power cuts 16 hours a day for part of the year, and partisanship is unyielding. Fuel, water, and food shortages are pervasive. At times, people line up for hours for a bucket or a liter of gasoline in the capital. Some parts of rural Nepal have malnutrition rates over 60%.
Literacy is 49% nationwide, falling as low as 17% for women in some areas. Nearly 40% of the country is under age 14, and 30% of children drop out of school before Grade 6.
While growth is optimistically reported at 3.5%, inflation of basic goods such as rice, lentils, flour, and sugar ranged 14% to 70% in 2010. An average household spends more than 65% of their income on food.
In this environment, Nepal’s future rests in the hands of people willing to get personally involved in making a difference. 30 years and $300 billion in corrupted international aid have resulted in falling bridges, unstaffed health posts, and massive class disparity as much as improved infrastructure or health. In a country ranked second only to Afghanistan for corruption in Asia, we believe that positive change comes from small, well-placed grants and carefully-selected partners who demonstrate integrity and authenticity.