Bharatpur is the capital city of Chitwan district in central-southern Nepal. The current population, of more than 143,000, is the result of a rapid annual growth rate, which has been higher than 7% in recent years. This makes it one of the fastest growing cities in the world, but has also placed an enormous strain on its infrastructure.
The Chitwan Valley, in which Bharatpur is situated, is predominantly agricultural and focuses on growing rice and mustard. The region is one of the country's most impoverished and a decade of conflict, which has only recently subsided, has added to the challenges it faces.
The poverty trap
The decade-long conflict which ended in 2006 displaced thousands of families and orphaned countless children. Many other parents found that they could not continue to care for their children due to the economic and social strains created by the violence. These, strains persist and poverty related issues continue to force families to make tough decisions.
Poverty limits the life chances of children when impoverished parents are forced to choose between their children's education and putting food in their mouths. The Dalit caste, so-called untouchables, suffer particularly badly. They make up the poorest segment of society and, despite legislation, continue to experience discrimination and human rights abuses.
The growth of Bharatpur has only added to poverty in the region, since it has meant that farm land is increasingly being converted for residential or commercial use. This has made it hard for landless tenants, subsistence farmers, and rural women to make a living from farming, forcing many to move to the city.
Rapid growth has placed a huge strain on infrastructure and public services of Bharatpur. Around 60% of people in the city have no access to clean drinking water, road maintenance and waste water management are lacking, and education on hygiene is inadequate. This has had a profound impact on people's lives and life chances of children in the region.
Added to this is the fact that during the recent conflict many schools were shut down or taken over for use by the military. Even today the impact of this is felt in the limited access to education and medical treatment, especially for women.
Progress is slow despite the implementation of a number of projects by the municipality, and the people of Bharatpur will likely face inadequate public service provision for some time still.
What is SOS Children doing?
In Bharatpur we saw parents struggling to provide and children left to fend for themselves because of war and poverty. We opened our Children's Village here in 2003 and continue to expand the support we provide to families and children in the region.
Supporting families in need
Our social centre identifies families who are struggling to care for their children and works with them to overcome the challenges they face. These family strengthening programmes support parents with counselling and information on health and hygiene issues, which helps them to provide a safe, healthy, and happy upbringing for their children.
We want children to have the best start in life and to fulfil their full potential. To make sure this is the case we provide practical support to ensure that they benefit from a proper education. We help overcome financial barriers by granting scholarships for school fees, text books and school uniforms, and run a day care centre that allows parents to leave their children somewhere safe whilst they are at work.
SOS Families for lone children
For children who are not able to live with their parents, we provide a home with an SOS family. Here, they can live with their brothers and sisters and are loved and cared for by their SOS mother. They attend our SOS nursery and SOS school with almost 500 other children from the local community, which helps them make friends and fit in.
Once these children reach adolescence, they usually move into our SOS youth home which gives them the opportunity to pursue vocational training or go on to higher education. Through qualified counsellors we help them to develop aspirations for their future, learn to handle responsibility, and be confident in making their own decisions.
They are encouraged to build strong relationships with friends, potential employers, and the authorities, and these will help them successfully navigate life after leaving the SOS youth home. Poor children in Bharatpur will continue to face challenges in their lives. However, SOS Children is committed to working with them and their families to overcome these and realise their potential.
Vulnerable children and families in Bharatpur are supported by SOS Children in a variety of ways. When you become a child sponsor, you join their network of support.