Impact of Poverty
Poor kids can't go to school. Some work, some beg, some are forced into
the worst kinds of child labour,
including sexual slavery.
World-wide, 80% of working children have illiterate mothers.
Nepal, the Hunger Hotspot of Asia
* Half of Nepalese children are malnourished/underweight (compare with Afghanistan's 43%)
* Child mortality rates highest in Asia
* Maternal mortality rates are the highest in the world
These are national figures. It's worse in the mountains. See the map.
Malnutrition+Infection+Parasites=Failure to Thrive
Ethiopia, Haiti, Uganda and Nepal rank as some of the poorest countries in the world. The hungriest parts of Nepal are in the Himalayas. Extreme weather and geographical conditions makes food production in the mountains difficult. The regions lying at high altitude are referred to as 'deserts in the sky' because of the lack of monsoon rain.
Himalayan kids come from areas that are food-deficit. Most villages can produce enough food to last only 2 to 4 months of the year. Kids born in Nepal are smaller and lighter than they should be for their age. Mountain children all suffer from varying degrees of hunger, and from macro and micro-nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies are particularly serious in early childhood and are the cause of the high child mortality rates.
When children first come to us, we see dry reddish hair, swollen bellies and stick arms & legs. Many have chronic skin, eye and stomach ailments. All are suffering from delayed growth...particularly noticeable in dental and skeletal development. We see stunting in Himalayan children: often when talking with a new kid, I find myself thinking, "Gee, s/he's bright 9-year-old", only to find the kid is actually 14 or 15.
When the children first come to SMD school, they suffer from repeated skin, eye and upper respiratory tract (the ubiquitous runny nose) infections as well as intestinal parasites. The infections disappear after a year or two of nutritious food and vitamin supplements. Then the kids put on weight, shoot up and their skin, hair and eyes take on a glow. Nowadays, puberty begins at 12 to 14, rather than at 17 or 18, as it did before we improved the nutrition.