Nepal is officially classified as a Least Developed Nation (142 of 177 on the UN’s Human Development Index). Over 90% of the population lives rurally with more than 30% under the poverty line . Nonetheless, the last 50 years have shown steady growth in most of the key markers used to gauge success and development – rate of infant mortality, life expectancy, and more. And yet, this hopeful improving “situation” was bad enough to turn the calls for political reform and ethnic conflict that began in the 90s into a full on civil war that killed at least 13,000 and displaced more than 100,000.
Where do international non-governmental organizations come in? How does development help? Since the 1960s, there has been a massive international humanitarian presence in Nepal – providing programs for everything from nutrition, medical and health care, to women’s vocational training and education. The horror stories, called upon to solicitate donations, are real. Child soldiers. Girls sold into the slave trade. Trafficking of all sorts. It’s real and it is tragic and there is a real, definite, and significant impact that NGOs and humanitarian interventions can make.
But, the situation is more complex than interventionary-style volunteer projects can address. We can build as many hospitals and schools as we can find idealistic twenty-somethings to devote themselves to a cause – but if we can’t keep them staffed, supplied, and running… what’s the point? We can educate the children of Nepal, too – but if there are no jobs to employ them…?
Development doesn’t have to be non-sustainable – but too often it is.
Read the full story on Suprainiac Fossa (my anthropology blog)