Bir is a village located in the Himachal Pradesh state, in the upper north of India. Around 1,000 people live here, at the foot of the Himalayas. In the sixties.Tibetans followed the Dalai Lama into exile, and started a Tibetan Colony close to Bir. As they try to make a life for themselves in exile, they face many challenges, including food insecurity. Children are most vulnerable to these difficult living conditions.
Since 1993, Tibetan Children’s Villages, an independent charity which is partly supported through SOS Children’s Villages' sponsorships, has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Bir.
Himachal Pradesh, where Bir is located, is one of the best performing states in terms of human development indicators. However, many people still suffer from acute hunger.
Parents in Himachal Pradesh, where Bir is located, struggle to provide enough nutritious food for their children. And thus, 25% of children are underweight. To be more specific, 30% of children in Himachal Pradesh experience stunting (low height for age), a result from undernutrition. Furthermore, 17% of children experience wasting (low weight for height), which occurs when a child has not had enough quality food.
To date, two generations of Tibetans have been born and brought up in exile in India, after the first emigration in 1959. Moreover, new refugees are still travelling from Tibet, autonomous region of China. They have often suffered repression which has led them to flee to India. The scars of such experiences remain with them.
An estimated 90,000 Tibetan refugees live in exile in India. In Bir, a Tibetan colony was founded, with monasteries and institutes. Many Tibetan children are sent to Bir by their parents who see this as the only way that their child will obtain a Tibetan education.