Home / Global / Rebuilding hope again after the earthquake in Nepal… in 2023 | On the front line | Future Planet

Rebuilding hope again after the earthquake in Nepal… in 2023 | On the front line | Future Planet

On November 3, 2023, a tremor woke me up in my home in Kathmandu. It was around midnight and my immediate instinct was to check the latest media updates to determine the epicenter. As information progressed, it became clear that a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter in Jajarkot district had struck Karnali province in western Nepal. This was the largest earthquake since the one that devastated the country in 2015, and the latest in a series of earthquakes to hit western Nepal in the past year.

The next morning, a Unicef ​​team that was about 65 kilometers from the epicenter traveled to the affected communities to evaluate the situation and help the people. To our dismay, the extent of the destruction exceeded our original estimate. The earthquake killed 153 people and injured more than 364. Half of the dead and injured were children. More than 61,000 houses were damaged, 26,520 of them were completely destroyed. School buildings suffered damage: 142 had completely collapsed and another 343 had partially collapsed; 89 toilets in the schools were also partially broken. The tremor also affected health facilities and water supply systems.

With so many children injured during the earthquake and critical health services, including maternal and neonatal care, disrupted, the risk to children’s health from exposure to harsh winter weather, respiratory infections and waterborne diseases increases. Children are disproportionately affected and forced to spend nights outdoors in temporary shelters; They desperately need shelter, blankets and warm clothes now that winter is coming. Before the earthquake, there were already high levels of child malnutrition in Karnali province. Now, with the impact on basic services such as health and water, sanitation and hygiene, their nutritional status is likely to further deteriorate.

Therefore, 24 hours after the earthquake, we distributed the first relief supplies, including blankets and tarpaulins. By day four, we had reached more than 21,000 people, including 7,140 children, providing them with hygiene kits, plastic buckets, water purification, more blankets and tents. In addition, three medical tents were installed to provide health care, along with 17 spaces adapted for minors that offered psychosocial and mental health support.

I joined the effort in Jajarkot district on the fourth day. When I arrived, I was deeply shocked by the extensive destruction of homes, combined with the harsh reality that families were forced to spend nights outdoors, either for fear of aftershocks or because their homes had been reduced to ruins. It was heartbreaking to see entire cities reduced to ruins, and the sudden appearance of orphans added another layer of tragedy. The most affected villages were scattered, which posed a logistical challenge in getting aid to these populations. The magnitude of the devastation required a swift and strategic effort to provide relief to affected communities.

The immediate appearance of orphans added another layer of tragedy

After initial search and rescue, we mapped the hardest-hit villages to establish child-friendly spaces to offer psychosocial support, counseling, group healing, recreation and more. And most importantly, so that the little ones can socialize and play while their parents begin the work of rebuilding their lives.

I actively participated in the creation of 11 of these rooms, which are now attended by 6,000 children. Among them Susmita, a 12-year-old girl who shared with me how she had lived the harrowing experience on the night of the earthquake. Their family home collapsed while they slept. She was pulled out of the rubble, fortunately unharmed. Tragically, two of his brothers lost their lives. This heartbreaking story is repeated in several affected homes. Despite the trauma, Susmita finds solace in play and stress-relieving activities. For her, it is a small but significant step towards normalcy. He says he is looking forward to the rebuilding of his collapsed school and looks forward to the day when he can resume his education.

From experience, we know that in addition to child-friendly spaces, learning spaces with water, sanitation and hygiene facilities are necessary, especially considering the damage suffered by school buildings and classrooms. This not only ensures uninterrupted education, but also protects children from the risks they are exposed to when they are unsupervised, such as abuse and exploitation. Cash assistance to affected families, especially those caring for children and people with disabilities, is also urgently needed to ensure they can start rebuilding their lives.

The overall recovery from this disaster is a process that will take time, but we will continue to work around the clock on the ground to do so.

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