After three months of devastating earthquake, children still express fears and insecurity
The children are – after three months of devastating earthquake – still feeling insecure
“Nearly 2,000 children, who survived the earthquakes have expressed fear and insecurity at having to live in tents and overcrowded shelters, anxiety about the risks to their health from unsanitary conditions, and worry about their future if they cannot return to school,” according to a research ‘After the earthquake: Nepal’s children speak out’ that is published here today.
The research – one of the largest ever child consultations undertaken following the devastating earthquake – highlight the need to strengthen the resilience of communities against major disasters.
The aid organisations – Plan International, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision – that carried out the consultations also warn of severe risks to children’s health, well-being and protection during the monsoon season unless urgent humanitarian needs are met.
The children shared their top priorities as adequate shelter, to be able to return to school and to have access to safe water supplies, sanitation and health care during the consultation.
The research reveals the deep fears and anxieties of children, who are among the hundreds of thousands of people, whose homes were destroyed. Girls and boys described the difficulties of living in temporary shelters that were neither water or wind-proof in the aftermath of the earthquakes.
“Our shelter is at high risk of heavy storms,” said a young boy in Nuwakot, one of the 14 most affected districts where children were consulted. “We were forced to stay awake for a whole night to hold on to the tarpaulins to save them from blowing away,”
“Tens of thousands of children are living in inadequate shelters,” Save the Children’s Humanitarian Advisor and author of the report Lucia Withers said, adding that it is still a race against time to provide basic needs of shelter, sanitation and protection, despite efforts to help earthquake-affected communities.
Children expressed concern about the lack of privacy and space, with some younger children fearing attacks of wild animals. Girls in particular reported feeling vulnerable in shelters shared with extended families and neighbours, while others felt subjected to sexual harassment and feared an increase in trafficking.
“Living under the sky increases our exposure to abuse,” said an adolescent girl from Sindhupalchowk, a district hit by the earthquakes.
“With the monsoon season intensifying, we must act quickly and effectively to ensure the welfare of earthquake-affected children and their families is addressed,” World Vision’s Nepal Earthquake Response Operations Manager Admir Bajrami said. “Children have lived through a hugely distressing experience, which has also disrupted their education and they urgently need psychosocial support to recover.”
Children, who took part in the consultation provided detailed and practical recommendations on how to rebuild their lives and communities, including the need for earthquake-resistant homes, schools and other buildings. They also want to be better prepared for future earthquakes. “I want to see earthquake-resistant houses built in flat areas with trees planted,” said a teenage boy from Sindhupalchowk.
Children suggested that schools be run in tents or other temporary shelters until new schools have been built and called upon the government to replace the books, stationery and other school materials that were buried under the rubble of their homes.
Furthermore, they called for stronger protection for themselves and other children in their communities.
“Children’s lives in earthquake-affected areas have been turned upside down,” Plan International’s Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response Dr Unni Krishnan said, adding that the world must wake up to the fact that it is absolutely critical that children are factored in for any disaster preparedness and response efforts to be successful.
Children also talked of communities rallying to help each other despite the huge challenges faced by the earthquake survivors. In the consultation, children showed remarkable levels of resilience and optimism highlighting that their lives would normalize and even improve through the support of their communities.
“These children have provided us with valuableinsights that could have been missed by adult eyes,” UNICEF deputy representative Dr Rownak Khan said, adding that these suggestions now need to guide our programmes in the rest of the country, to better prepare all communities in Nepal for impending disasters.
At the end of May and early June 2015, some 1,838 children were consulted in the 14 districts most affected by the earthquakes on April 25 and May 12. The consultation was carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development and Central Child Welfare Board. The consultation provided valuable input for Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) also.