Surkhet is located at an altitude of 1,000 metres in a small valley in the province of Karnali, in the west of the country. The nearest town is Nepalgunj, 106 km away.
The Surkhet Valley is traditionally very difficult to reach by road, which is why many towns and villages here are quite remote and lack public facilities. Almost 40% of the population in Karnali live in poverty. This means that many parents struggle to put enough food on the table for their children. In addition, children, especially girls, are still exposed to child marriage.
Since 1987, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Surkhet.
Nepal has the 16th highest rate of child marriages in the world. This means that 40% of women in Nepal were married before the age of 18.
Child marriage is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the emotional damage a child suffers from a forced union is profound. There is also an increased risk of child pregnancy and domestic violence.
In the province of Karnali specifically, where Surkhet is located, 47% of girls were married as a child. The national target to end child marriage by 2030 will require a major push from the government.
Although Nepal has been recognized as a leader in decreasing malnutrition, food insecurity is still widespread in Nepal. Many people suffer from acute hunger. In Surkhet especially, parents struggle to provide enough nutritious food for their children. For this reason, 37% of the children are underweight.
To be more specific, 47% of children in Karnali 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 food of adequate quality and quantity.