Nepali Times
Save the children


The horrific slaughter of 26 children and their teachers last week in the US state of Connecticut was a shock reminder to Americans to urgently address the need for gun control. Nowhere else in the world is the right to bear arms taken as seriously as in the United States, and the latest massacre underlined the necessity to amend the Second Amendment. Passed as far back as in 1791, the law needs a serious revision in an age when assault rifles and other weapons of mass murder have been used by killers. The per capita rate of shooting homicide in the United States is 20 times higher than in Europe. There are over 10,000 murders by firearms in the US every year, compared to 30 in Australia, 37 in Sweden, and 8 in Japan. The frequency of school shootings in the US shows that the adult American's freedom to own a gun is infringing on the right to life of American children.

Here in Nepal, the latest US shootings reminded us of the murder in Kathmandu of 10 members of the royal family by another deranged and gun-crazed individual in 2001. That massacre set off a media feeding frenzy that put Nepal briefly on the global news map. Part of the reason for such lop-sided coverage is the prevalent news paradigm, the parameters the media uses to define an event as newsworthy.

Journalism schools teach students that for anything to have news value, a whole lot of people, preferably well-to-do or living in a rich country, have to die suddenly, all in one place, and it would help if there are interesting visuals. These unspoken, cynical and callous criteria define the threshold of what is deemed important enough for the people to know.

Which means that a textile factory fire that kills 100 workers in Bangladesh, or a typhoon in the Philippines that kills more than 1,000 farmers are eclipsed by relatively smaller events in the industrialised world. Seventy thousand Nepali children die every year of diarrhoeal dehydration, pneumonia and other vaccine-preventable deaths. That is about
200 children dying needlessly every day, but it doesn't merit headlines around the world, not even in Nepal, because they are mostly poor children in remote areas who die silently and are scattered across the land. The death of 200 children every day in Nepal should be news, but alas, it doesn't fit the standard news format.

To be sure, Nepal has made dramatic progress in child survival.That should be news too, but it isn't. The country's poverty rate has declined to 25 per cent, the national literacy rate has doubled in the past 15 years, enrollment in primary schools is nearly 100 per cent, and there is parity between boys and girls. Nepal's under-five mortality rate is down from 162 per 1,000 births to less than 50 today, and the maternal mortality rate has come down from 850 per 100,000 births to less than 200 in 15 years.

Still, these figures are national averages and mask the glaring disparity between urban and rural areas, between the mainstream and marginalised communities. There are still 200,000 children who are out of school, a quarter of the population is living below the absolute poverty line, and 41 per cent of children under five are underweight which makes them vulnerable to killer infections. Most worryingly, the female literacy rate is plateauing off and the child mortality rate has been stagnant for the last few years.

Nepal's daily tally of child deaths cannot be equated with heinous mass murders like the premeditated shooting of primary school children, but they are crimes against humanity nonetheless. Nepali children are not just dying, they are being killed by state neglect, bureaucratic apathy, corruption and bad governance. There is no other way to put it politely: the lack of accountability resulting from endless political bickering is delaying development and killing our children.

1. Kim Rollie

This is a powerful and heart-rending editorial. I agree that the prevental death of 200 children in Nepal EVERY DAY due to government disinterest is like mass murder. The tragic and needless daily deaths of so many children should be headline news every day.

2. Stanley Richardson

I have the best memories of working and living in Nepal in the late 70s. I love the people of Nepal. Their hearts are made of gold.

I read NT regularly and am very excited that editorials is now focused on real sufferings of the people and not on politics or politicians. Even back then, I used think that corruption was bad and governance was against the people. If you fast forward to 2012, corruption has destroyed Nepal and the leadership is lacking in respect and ethics. This makes me sad.

I hope the managers at Nepali Times will stay with issues that matters most to the people. Nepalese deserve a lot more than what they are getting now.   If all the Nepali media boycotted the failed policies and unethical leaders,  the people would actually benefit in some way. Keep up the good work.  


3. Kul Gautam
Superb editorial. 
A small, but important, nitpicking point, that does not detract from the thrust of your argument. According to the latest (2011- U.N. inter-agency) report prepared jointly by UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank and the UN population division ( the total number of child (under-5) deaths in nepal have dropped down to 'only' 34,000/year or about 100/day -- i.e. about half your estimate. Even if we add deaths of older children (upto 18 years), I suspect that total child/adolescent deaths would be less than 40,000/year, as deaths are heavily concentrated in the earliest period of childhood (40% now occur during the neo-natal period, i.e. first 28 days).
But death is only the tip of the iceberg -- we have huge rates of malnutrition, significant disabilities, mental retardation, other chronic illnesses, violence and abuse which make the life of many surviving children miserable. so the overall take home message of your editorial remains valid. 

4. Padma Ghimire
Nepali children are the future of Nepal.  So many children are dying when they could be living. The women are also abused and neglected in Nepal. Pushpa and Anuradha have done for Nepali women and children that hundreds of corrupted Nepali leaders cannot and will not ever do in their entire life time. Our country is doomed to fail for abusing the most precious gifts of women and children. No family or society or country can prosper by abusing and neglecting children and raping women. There is no outrage in Nepal for this injustice... why is that.

5. Sudha Sharma

Excellent editorial. 

Much progress has been made in the area of children's health  but definitly we need to do much more.Let us continue the discussion and action on the grounds.

Please continue to highlight social issues like these. 

6. Surendra Singh

Merry Christmas Nepali Times !  N T has been doing a great service to Nepal by producing well informed and balanced reporting for many years now. The focus now on real and burning issues that plagues Nepalis is a very positive change.

Women and children have always been oppressed in Nepal. How disgusting is this horrible truth. This is one of the main reasons why Nepal is always a backward country and a dark society.

Women should be loved and respected and children should be allowed to sing and dance. Not child labour and a thriving business to sell our treasure to brothels in India.  How disgusting is that.

NT can do a lot of service by putting a major focus on these issues. We are happy to read that at least there is one media entity in Nepal that is free from political pressure and meddling.  N T deserves an International award and recognition for this service to Nepali women and children.




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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)