Nepalese street child bleeding on the side of a road

Nepalese street child bleeding on the road
Nepalese street child bleeding on the road

Nepalese street boy bleeding in Kathmandu

One of the most overlooked aspects of Nepal, are the thousands of street children roaming the nation’s capital Kathmandu. Indeed, throughout Nepal there are a vast number of homeless children roaming its streets.

Most of the Kathmandu homeless children are boys. They are quickly taken into the deep underbelly of this complex city. Many addicted to glue, many more sexually abused, beaten, and forgotten.

Earlier in the year I wrote up an article on Nepal in 2011 that’s since been picked up by Nepalese media. If you are interested in the problems facing Nepal, it’s worth a read.

Many thanks to @hayadeen from Malaysia for selecting this weeks photograph

Facts about street children in Nepal

  • The population of Nepal is 29 million, 448,769 tourists arrived in Nepal last year, there are over 30,000 street children
  • Children end up on the streets in this Hindu / Buddhist society due to, amongst other factors, village oustings, stigma of single mothers, abusive parents, lack of financial support, child labor and human trafficking
  • Many of the street children in Nepal are sexually abused by foreign tourists
  • Reports have stated many children are often beaten, tortured, and abused by law enforcement authorities
  • Many street children are addicted to sniffing glue and other barbiturates
  • Several NGO’s have been cited for using street children as a cover to acquire donations for personal usage

The story behind this photograph

Having been in Nepal for several months during 2007/2008 I had grown used to seeing the mass of street boys every evening in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. The children would descend on this touristy area of the capital as tourists would either be returning from day trips, or heading out for the evening. It’s prime earning time for the street children of Nepal.

Living in West Africa has taught, and more importantly shown me, that giving handouts is the worst thing one can do for street children. It simply encourages more to take to the streets. Yet this is what so many tourists do. They hand out money, food and clothing to the street children.

What they don’t see are the same children buying glue with the donated money, exchanging food for money to buy the same glue, and indeed selling clothes for the same purposes.

Perhaps worse then individual handouts are the tourists who try to invest in setting up yet more NGO’s. Many having no real experience with development work in this region, child abuse, nor the true socio-economic problems within Nepal. Whilst the notion of a good heart in helping seems great, the reality is often damaging in the long-term.

Want to help? A visit to the UNHCR office will steer you in the right direction.

On this particular day I was on New Road and witnessed a different batch of street boys erupt into a fight.

Further up I walked by this boy lying on the road. If you know Kathmandu, then you’ll know that many streets are paved with dirt, holes, trash and yes, people. A friend pointed down as I was looking over at the fight.

This boy, with his bloodied bandages, was sleeping alongside the main road at about 11am. A few local people dropped small notes around him.

I asked the tourists back at my guesthouse about the street children they’d seen. Many simply shook off my comment, turning back to their guidebooks and trekking maps. Many more shrugged their shoulders and said they hadn’t seen any.

I passed my camera around to show them a days photographic work on the streets with the children huffing glue.

Over the next 24 hours something quite good came of all this.

The following day, the same tourists came back and said they’d seen them.

Something clicked with me. Prior to looking at my photograph these tourists had not noticed the street children of Nepal. Or, rather had chosen not to notice them.

It was only when it had been brought to their attention, about what was happening, did they finally open their eyes.

It was here I learned the powerful medium that a photograph, and more importantly the story behind it; can deliver to the world.

Discover more great travel photographs

A street child in Nepal bleeding with some money by his side
A street child in Nepal bleeding with some money by his side

This is an additional photograph feature from my world travel photography gallery, detailing the story behind the picture 

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28 Replies to “Nepalese street child bleeding on the side of a road”

  1. hi dave

    i said I will tell u why i chose this picture right?
    simply because i want to know the story behind it.
    children shouldn’t be treated like this. Nothing should be treated like this.

    Btw, thanks for this article. Hopefully, the message will spread..

      1. Is it possible to open up an orphanage there in Kathmandu? I really want too. What advice can anyone give me? Thank you

  2. I feel it’s important for many new, or soon to be travelers to not be sheltered from the fact that this is an epidemic everywhere the world over. Sad as it may be, I can whole heartedly agree that giving money to these young individuals only worsens the matter. It’s a tough dilema for many aid agencies the world over.

    It’s a great photo Dave, and one that I appreciate you getting. At times as a photographer, you need to get in close to situations such as this to tell the story. If this photo can help other travelers understand their is more going on in the world other than full moon parties on Thai beaches, then it has ever so slightly done it’s job.

    1. So do I Jason. The mere fact that no one even noticed the glue sniffing kids until being shown the photos, and then the next day coming back and saying they now saw them says a lot.

      And yes, I hope when people see photos like these, that they when they go to tourist destinations. If anything, they will have a better awareness, and not fall into the traps I mentioned above.

  3. Thank you for sharing this photograph. I wish the world were a better place especially for children.

  4. the image, as pathetic as it may be, does not say all, and the author, though sincerely moved, failed as often to go a bit further than the emotion.
    A piece of clothes, 15rs buffalo blood bought from a local meat shop, and here you are, making money.
    Surviving in the streest requires many skills, begging is one of many.
    Yes street kids are bleeding, but from inside, from the abuses they suffered from their families and which made them run away in the first place, and from the ignorance and mis-understanding they suffer there after from the society and public at large.
    Dear photograph, look behind the picture next time, and if you really want to know what NGOs are doing here, come to visit us and understand.

    1. Take your time rereading this article.

      The points you raised have been included in the article. Including about corrupt NGO’s taking advantage of street children.

      (FYI I’ve removed the link to your organisation, and name, as promotion of organisations in this field without review will not be tolerated given the nature and content of this article)

  5. Dave, I’m not sure how I feel about this photo. Part of me is so bothered by it and the other agrees that the story must be told. There is such a fine line between photojournalism and sensationalism.

    I was in Kathmandu in 1998 and relatively new to traveling in the developing world (ie, unaware of all the various scams). Once day we went to see Durbar Square and were continually harassed by would be guides all of whom we brushed off. Then this charming little boy, about 9 years old, came up to us and we allowed him to take us around and tell us what he knew of the sites. At the end, he asked us to not give him money, but rather, to buy him some powdered milk for his little brother, because if he got cash, the bigger boys would just take it from him. He brought us to a store and of course, the cost of the box was way more than if we would have just given him cash. Still, we bought it for him and watched him walk away home, feeling pretty good about the whole thing. A couple years later we learned of the scam where the kids have stuff bought for them and then return it to the store for pennies on the dollar. Part of me still holds out hope that in this case, the boy was telling us the truth.

    Now, I never give money to kids on the street. I have a charity I support in Cambodia which funds poor kids to go to school and gets many of them off the street. When I’m traveling I find local charities to donate to.

    1. Hi Kristina,

      I understand your point about sensationalism. And, it’s a very valid one.

      However I do think that one can only go down the NGO / charity route for so long. And, I’ve seen so much corruption in Nepal on this side of things that it truly sickens me. How people can profit from the abuse of young children is beyond me.

      I’ve also met some children like the boy you mentioned. And I also hold out hope that there are some telling the truth. I remember a small girl selling small sketches on the street. She was so clever. From telling me she “didn’t take glue, like the boys” to being honest in saying she couldn’t afford to go to school. I couldn’t help but buy the sketches from her. Would I do it again? No. But there was something about her that separated her from the others. She spoke honestly about things.

      I find it very hard to support charities these days. At least ones that don’t show their expenses etc. While some of these small NGO’s might be doing good things. There are many, many more simply profiting. Exposing them, wouldn’t be a bad thing. Though I’m sure they’ll tell you differently.

      1. You’re right, there are bad NGOs out there, just like there are bad people and bad corporations. That’s why you have to do your homework. Any above-board charity will make their financial statements public. There are also sites out there which rate charities based on what percentage of donations are used for “administration” vs. what percentage actually make it where the donation was intended.
        Personally, I support in Siem Reap Cambodia, because I am 100% sure they are doing the right thing 100% of the time. Not only have I volunteered with them, I’ve known the woman the charity is named after (Ponheary Ly) since 2002 and I know the American woman who started the foundation and moved to Cambodia to run it. Their financial numbers are published on their website and I also know someone on their US board of directors. I’m confident the money is all going where it should, which means over 95% of the donations go to helping the kids and nothing ever goes in anyone’s pocket.

        1. It’s information like this that makes a difference. You’ve been there, worked there, got to know the people running it. And, moreover, they are open with their accounts and work practices.

          Unfortunately many people don’t go to such lengths. They believe the glossy cover story.

  6. This is such a difficult topic. In an ideal world, family life would rule. Moms and Dads would proudly look after each other and raise their children together in a nurturing, protective way. These kids would grow up and become well adjusted adults, and so the happy cycle would continue.
    In some countries, this life is real and possible. Sadly, for most … it’s not. We treat the people, and our environment, closest to us with such disrespect and anger. How can we, as a species, break this ghastly cycle?
    I only learned about the scams by NPO’s after moving to Holland. What makes me double angry about this behaviour, aside from profiting from abominal situations, is that it negates all the good work done by real helpers.
    As I said, a very difficult topic …

    1. You really brought up some very good points here, many of which I am guessing can only be said if you’ve experienced these things yourself.

      And, I think this holds a certain key to the answers we need.

      This weekend I had the misfortune of meeting an “NGO” worker. Or more to the point, his wife. She was a well kept lady to put it mildly. Who didn’t spare any expense at telling me about how they only fly first class, and stay at the best hotels etc. They spent 4 years in South Africa, and during that time things never changed. She was of course referring to the expat stores which only stocked British food stuffs and not American. Things were better when they moved to Manila. Although she did make a point at saying it was highly incontinent to be 1 hour out from main mall there.

      During all this her husband was getting praise for how quickly he’d been learning native languages. Strangely no matter how many times I asked, no one could clearly define what he actually did? Other than work as a consultant …

      Similarly in West Africa, I’ve seen people so semidetached from the reality of what’s on the ground that they make things worse. Yet they get the rewards of praise for trying so hard. Again, in Nepal this is no different.

      So rather sadly, I think we are a long way off from making right the wrongs of the world.

      Sorry, I went off on a bit of tangent! But like you said, it is indeed a difficult topic.

  7. This is truth what is happening around the world especially in the third world countries. Children are a beautiful creation of god and we must all know that we were also kids at a time and we will also have kids in some part of our lives. What is even more worse is that travelers like us try to abuse them for sexual needs. Many children are controlled by agencies who use them for even making money by sending them begging.

    1. You bring up a good point about many of the children being controlled by agencies. I’ve heard of one in Kathmandu that houses a group of children quite well, and sends them out to work the streets every morning. Shameful.

  8. Now I don’t know what to feel seeing this apart from just a huge amount of sadness. I’m what you did after taking this shot? Give money? Offer help? Or just walk into the distance?

    How does one react with a subject like this?

    1. I walked on. I knew already where the money would go. I can’t put money into a little kids hand knowing they are going to fry their brain with glue afterwards.

      There are people on other roads in Kathmandu that look a lot worse than this child, unfortunately. I can only hope the that people will wake up to how we are losing our values when seeing things like this.

  9. Powerful story. I think it’s easy for people to walk past a child like this and not pay any attention. Child poverty isn’t a topic with an easy answer, but it’s a topic that still needs to be addressed.

    1. Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. Creating awareness, must still rank high. Without it, things continue to go by unnoticed. Even a small discussion somewhere, might spark some ideas that can help.

  10. Dave, thank you for sharing this photo and the story behind it. It is a very real and sad fact that children are not treated well in many parts of the world. From war, famine or just neglect, they are often left to their own devices. We in the west are spoiled with our social programs and even here there are children who fall through the cracks. No one deserves to be treated like this, child or adult. It is a sad thing that it’s become commonplace. So commonplace that travelers don’t see it until it’s pointed out to them and then, do they do the right thing with the right agencies? Probably not. UNESCO is a wonderful agency and does great work throughout the world. I’m glad to see you promoting it here.

    Keep up the great work! I always enjoy reading about your adventures and your perspective on what you experience. It is a road less traveled that you’re on.

    God bless and be well

  11. Poignant photo Dave. Its useful for viewers to know the scam behind this photo too. The blood staining the boys bandage is nothing more than a cup of pigs blood bought for a few rupees from local butcher! Fast paced urban life together with human nature make it difficult for passers by to do anything other than what their conscience demands in the face of such a horrific scene. I know some of the kids that run this scam and they agree that its a easy and effective earner for them.

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