Nepal is a landlocked country located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the China, and to the south, east, and west by the India. Kathmandu is the nation’s capital and the country’s largest metropolis. Nepal’s flag is the only national flag in the world that is non-quadrilateral in shape.
Nepal has a rich geography. The mountainous north has eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali. Its land area is smaller than Victoria (147,181 sq km), however it reaches from the heights of Mount Everest to the sea level plains of the tropical Terai. In this diverse land is a population estimated at 29.3 million people (UN 2009).
A monarchy throughout most of its history, Nepal was ruled by the Shah dynasty of kings from 1768. However, a decade-long Civil War by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leaving more than 12,000 people dead and 100,000 people displaced according to UN figures. In May 2008 the 239 year monarchy came to an end and Nepal became a democratic republic.
Thousands of children have been the innocent victims of this conflict. Many of these children were stranded in remote villages, end up begging, pressed into employment for pitiful wages, or girls may be sold in an underground slave trade to employers in India. Throughout Nepal it is estimated there are 2.6m child labourers working across various industries.
Nepal is home to some of the largest Hindu temples as well as four of the holiest Buddhist sites in the world. By some measures, Hinduism is practised by a larger majority of people in Nepal than in any other nation. Buddhism, though a minority faith in the country, is linked historically with Nepal. Many Nepali do not distinguish between Hinduism and Buddhism and follow both religious traditions.
Nepal remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GNI of US $400 (World Bank 2008) and a life expectancy of 66-67 years. Nepal relies heavily on Tourism, with 2011 being the ‘Year of Tourism’. Most of the population depends on agriculture, and the UN estimates that about 40% of Nepalis live in poverty. Foreign aid is vital to the economy, and Nepal is also heavily dependent on trade with neighbouring India.