Photo: Hugo Lalonde
This country of over 30 million people is among the poorest and least developed in the world, both economically and in terms of infrastructure, ranking 145 out of 186 on the UN Human Development Index. Outside of the major cities, the HDI is markedly lower, particularly among historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups.
Nepal was embroiled in a civil war from 1996–2006. While the war is long over, the transition to a stable democracy is still in process, and many people have yet to see the better lives they were promised during the conflict. Only nominal improvements have been made, and access to roads, schools, quality healthcare, and other infrastructure outside of the major cities remains limited. Nepal still experiences “load shedding” year round, leaving the entire population without electricity for up to 17 hours per day.
On April 25, 2015, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck Nepal. This was followed by a destructive aftershock measuring 7.3 on May 12, 2015. Roughly 9,000 people died and over 17,000 were injured as a result of the earthquakes. Millions more were displaced or directly affected in some way. Thousands of schools were destroyed, putting children at risk. The long-term impacts of this disaster are only beginning to be seen.
The unemployment rate is 46 percent and roughly one-quarter of the population lives below the poverty line (set at living on under $1.25 per day). Estimates show that upwards of an additional one million people will fall below the poverty line following the April and May 2015 earthquakes. Children often bear the brunt of poverty with one third of children between 5–14 involved in economic production in some way, and over 29 percent of children 5 years old or younger are underweight.
Nepal is home for a vast swathe of the Himalayas and houses the highest mountain peak in the world, Mount Everest (Sagarmatha). From the high peaks of the Himalayas to the lowlands of the Tarai, Nepal offers striking landscapes, making it a prime destination for tourists.