Anatta - World Health & Education Outreach
Focus: Nepal
Why we are here

Update: February 2012
Dear Anatta Friends,

As you may know, I have recently returned from a month-long humanitarian trip involving three countries in Asia. Many of you have generously supported this effort through your donations of funds or useful items for our projects in Nepal and/or Thailand.

Now thatwe have completed the trip, I wanted to take the time to personally thank each of you for your invaluable support, without which we could not have accomplished our objectives. This was a major undertaking for our small organization, and I am happy to report thatit hasbeen the most successful Anatta trip to date. We have launchedour largest series of medical and educational projects in Nepal, and have seen the greatest advances toward sustainability from our Thailand Childlife venue.

We began with our group in Nepal at the Peace Grove Nunnery in Lumbini. This is a place where girls, who would otherwise be unable to obtain an education at all, are thriving and becoming self-assured, educatedleaders in their community. The entire village was in attendance as we celebrated the ground-breaking for the Anatta Library - the first library anywhere in the local area. Another highlight was in Thailand,at the Myanmar border town of Mae Sai, where we once again conducted a full-scale medical clinic for all the orphaned/abused childrenhoused and protectedin this grassroots shelter.

I look forward to sharing more of our project developments and follow-ups with you, either here on our website, on Facebook, inemail updates, or personally. We will also be hosting a local general information sessionin the near futurefor this purpose. We will post this information once the details are set.

Once again, my deepest gratitude for your generosity and compassion. I welcome you to stay involved; your help is instrumental for us to continue making a difference in the lives of those with so much less opportunity.

With sincere thanks,
Cornelia Santschi

Situated between the Tibetan plateau and the plains of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia, Nepal bridges cultures and geography in a unique melting pot of people, character and ancient history. In the north, the country traverses along the greatest heights of the Himalaya, home to eight of the world's 10 tallest mountains including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali. This land of yaks, stupas and sherpas offers postcard beauty and some of the best trekking on earth.

Nepal is commonly divided into three geographic zones: the Mountain, Hill, and Terai regions. These ecological belts run east-west and are intersected by Nepal's major north-south flowing river systems. The Terai, southern lowland plains bordering India, are fed by three major Himalayan rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani, and the Karnali. This region has a subtropical to tropical climate. The Pahad, or Hill Region abuts the mountains and varies from subtropical climates below 4,000 feet to alpine above 12,000 feet. In the highest areas, snow occasionally falls in winter. The Parbat, or Mountain Region is part of the Great Himalayan Range which makes up the northern area of Nepal on the border with China.

Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to the altitudes. There are five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalayan mountains block cold winds from Central Asia in the winter and form the northern boundary of the monsoon winds. In a land once thickly forested, deforestation is a major problem everywhere, with resulting erosion and degradation of ecosystems.

In most ways, the Nepali people are as diverse as their country's geography. The Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations from India, Tibet, North Burma, and Yunnan via Assam. Even though Indo-Nepalese migrants arrived more recently relative to the northern migrants, they dominate the country numerically, socially, politically, and economically. Despite the migration of a significant section of the population to the southern Terai plains in recent years, most Nepalis still live in the central highlands. The northern mountains are sparsely populated.

Eighty percent of people in Nepal practice the Hindu religion. Buddhism, though a minority faith in the country (10%), is linked historically with Nepal as the birthplace of the Buddha. Many Nepali do not distinguish between Hinduism and Buddhism and follow both religious traditions. There are 3 different Buddhist traditions represented: Himalayan Buddhism, Buddhism of Kathmandu Valley (mostly Mahayana and Vajrayana), and Theravada Buddhism.

Nepal's population has grown from 9 million people in 1950 to 29 million in 2010. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and largest metropolis with a population of around 800,00. It is a multilingual society whose diverse heritage evolved from four major language groups. The major languages of Nepal are Nepali (48.61%), Maithili (12.30%), Bhojpuri (7.53%), Tharu (5.86%), Tamang (5.19%), Newari/Nepal Bhasa (3.63%), Magar (3.39%), Awadhi (2.47%), Rai (2.79%), Limbu (1.47%), and Bajjika (1.05%).

Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali is the official national language and serves as the common mode of communication among Nepalis of different ethnolinguistic groups. Many Nepalis in government and business speak English as well. Dialects of Tibetan are spoken in the north in the higher Himalaya while local mostly unwritten dialects abound in the Terai and hills.

Clearly Nepal is an amazingly diverse country offering something for most any visitor. Due to its location, Nepal has long been a resting place for traders, travelers and pilgrims. A cultural melting pot, it has absorbed elements from its neighbors, yet retained an individual flavor. Many visitors are enchanted by the friendliness and openness of the Nepali people. One journey through this land is rarely enough to begin to understand its heritage, beauty, and diversity.

Nepal is also one of the poorest countries on earth. It is among the least developed countries in the world, with one-quarter to one half of its population living below the poverty line.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing a livelihood for three-fourths of the population and accounting for about 40% of its GDP while services comprise 41% and industry 22%. Agricultural produce, mostly grown in the Terai region, includes tea, rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, root crops, milk, and water buffalo meat. Industry mainly involves the processing of agricultural produce, including jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain.

Nepal's workforce of about 10 million suffers from a shortage of skilled labor. Although the diverse, exotic cultures and incredible geography represent potential for tourism, growth of the hospitality industry has been slowed by recent political events. The rate of unemployment and underemployment approaches half of the working-age population, so many Nepali citizens move to India in search of jobs.

In terms of infrastructure, Nepal remains isolated from the world's major land, air and sea transport routes. The hilly and mountainous terrain in the northern two-thirds of the country has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. There is only one reliable road route from India to the Kathmandu Valley. The only practical seaport of entry for goods bound for Kathmandu is Calcutta, India. Internally, poor development of the road system makes larger-scale distribution difficult and impractical.
There is less than one landline telephone per 19 people. Service is inadequate nationwide with concentration in cities and district headquarters. Mobile phone service offers greater accessibility and affordability, with more-or -less uninterrupted internet service increasingly available.

Health in Nepal is poor by international standards, especially in rural areas with disease prevalence higher than in other South Asian countries. There is a high risk of waterborne illnesses such as bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever. Leading diseases and illnesses also include goiter, intestinal parasites, leprosy and tuberculosis. Nepal has high rates of child malnutrition (72 percent in 2001) and under-five mortality (91.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2001).

Health-care facilities, hygiene, nutrition and sanitation are generally poor and beyond the means of most, particularly in rural areas. In the early 2000s, there were only 21 physicians per 100,000 people. Provision of health services is constrained by low government spending, rugged terrain, and lack of health education, lowering the demand for health services. Most hospitals are in urban areas, and rural health facilities often lack adequate funding, trained staff, and medicines. As a result, health clinics and hospitals generally are used only for persistent and serious illnesses. There have been government efforts to decentralizing health services to villages, but the program has not resulted in notable public health improvements.

Education in Nepal is structured into primary school education (grades 15) and higher secondary levels grades 68 and 910 respectively.

Officially, there are two types of schools in the country: community and institutional. Community schools receive regular government grants while institutional schools are funded by the school itself, or other non-governmental sources. Institutional schools are usually organized as a non-profit or a company. A third type of school is run by the local people motivated to have a school in their locality. Managed by the people, they do not receive government grants and most do not have sustainable financial support.

Education management, quality, relevance, access and resources are therefore some of the critical issues of education in Nepal. Societal disparities based on gender, ethnicity, location, and economic class remain a hindrance to educational equality. These problems have made the goal of education for all a challenge for the country. Currently about two thirds of female adults and one third of male adults are illiterate. Countrywide, average education is 10 years for males and 8 years for females. In rural areas this can be far lower.

Nepal has seen rapid political changes during the last two decades. Until 1990, Nepal was a monarchy under the executive control of the king. Faced with a Communist movement against the absolute monarchy, in 1990, King Birendra, agreed to large-scale political reforms by creating a parliamentary monarchy with the king as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of government. Even with some more recent evidence of legal and social change, Nepal has remained one of the world's poorest countries, with seven million Nepalis lacking adequate food or basic health and education. In rural areas, the majority of Nepalis continue to live simply as they always have, but unless real social change, improvements in education, and economic development becomes evident in the countryside, the frustrations that fueled Nepal's recent political unrest are in danger of remaining unresolved.