Nepal is a politically fragile country that is still feeling its way towards full democracy after a bitter civil war.
At the same time, this poor and mountainous country is dangerously exposed to earthquakes, floods and drought and outbreaks of infectious diseases.
A widely anticipated strong earthquake in the capital Kathmandu could cause more than 100,000 casualties and make more up to a million people homeless.
Nepal became a republic in 2008 after a 10-year civil war led to the abolition of its formerly powerful monarchy.
The Maoist uprising ended with a peace agreement in 2006. Two years later, the former rebels came to power through the ballot box, winning an absolute majority in the 2008 elections.
However, the civil war left over 16,000 people dead, according to government figures, and up to 150,000 internally displaced people and refugees.
It created deep divisions within Nepalese society. The country‟s politics are still riven by in-fighting.
Nepal suffers from frequent floods, droughts and health epidemics. It is also subject to powerful earthquakes.
A major earthquake in the Kathmandu Valley occurs every 75 years or so.
The last one, measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale, occurred in 1934. In 2