Sorrow without Borders

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from the original Spanish "Dolor Sin Fronteras" by Manuel Manrique Castro

Nepal, with its 28 million inhabitants, the vast majority being Hindu, nestled between India and China, had a long period of unrest and political instability that ended in 2006. Maoist rebels took power two years later, and after a Constituent Assembly, Nepal was no longer a kingdom, and became a federal democratic republic, ending over 240 years of monarchy.

On April 25, 2015, the worst earthquake in 80 years, with its epicenter near Kathmandu, caused destruction in 57 of the country’s 75 districts, 21 of them the most severely affected. In Gorka and Sindupalchowk, both adjacent to China, 90% percent of the houses were demolished and the same thing happened with 80% of schools. To date, the death toll continues to rise.

This is also the land of the Kumari girls, considered the reincarnation of the goddess Taleju, and they retain this status until they begin to menstruate when, according to religious belief, the goddess disembodies their bodies. Although the Kumari are found in several places of Nepal, the most important is the Kumari of Kathmandu, who lives in her own palace, far away from everything and everyone, and is served special food, to prevent her from being touched or even allowed out of her temple. The current Kumari was selected when she was 3 years old. For these girls, when they no longer are near goddesses is a hardship that they carry the rest of their lives.

That the Kumari are the object of veneration and are treated deities on earth, not even remotely means that children in Nepal live in similar conditions. Infant mortality is almost three and a half times that of Colombia, and maternal mortality is five times as high.

According to Save the Children, about two million children work in factories, hotels, restaurants, homes, and 127,000 of them work in high-risk jobs, 40,000 are exploited in mining; 40% of children are stunted. Furthermore, 25% percent of girls between 14 and 18 are married, study less, and if they belong to the Dalit community, which represents 13% percent of the population, receive abuse and discrimination for being part of the lowest caste in the system, legalized by the Civil Code since 1854.

Of the more than four million Nepalese affected by the earthquake, 40% are children, urgently in need of protection, shelter, water, food, health care, and education. There is no dimension of life that has not been severely altered. For them, the earthquake is worsening a situation of historical neglect that becomes visible today on behalf of the tragedy.

However, this is also an opportunity to shake the country out of its backwardness, especially in relation to children. It is necessary, though, that government measures and international aid are not confined to emergency or when the television cameras are on. This is the time to sow equity, giving a twist to the fury of nature to build possibilities of development that the Nepalese people, the vast majority being rural, are still awaiting.

Stepping boldly into leading with children and youth to create a better future for us all.


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