One year after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal, children continue to face major difficulties. Alongside concerns over living conditions and access to a safe and supportive education, children report enduring feelings of fear and trauma that could compromise their wellbeing in the long term.
Five child rights organisations– Plan International, Save the Children, Terre des hommes, UNICEF, and World Vision – highlight the need to mainstream child protection and child safeguarding, including psycho-social support, within all recovery and reconstruction efforts.
The findings are based on a consultation with more than 680 children from five of the most severely earthquake-affected districts in Nepal. The research released today, “Children’s voices, children’s rights: one year after the Nepal earthquake” revealed that children’s challenges continue to be inadequate shelter, overcrowded classes, and lack of books and materials.
Children who took part in the consultation highlighted different sources of fear as a result of living in temporary shelters, including thieves and wild animals entering houses; of sleeping outside; and of being trafficked or forced into child labour.
"The doors and windows of our temporary house are not strong. The locks can be easily broken and I am scared of being [physically or sexually] abused. I have heard news of this kind through the radio," said one adolescent girl from Rasuwa, during the consultations.
Most worryingly, these compounding fears and feelings of instability are starting to have psychosocial effects on children. A staggering 50 percent of children stated that a year after the earthquake, they continue to overreact to loud noises and 23 percent do not sleep as well as before the earthquake.
“We feel scared even while dreaming. Also, we get scared hearing the sound of vehicles,” said an adolescent boy from Salmechakal, Kavre.
Save the Children’s Country Director, Delilah Borja, said: “Children are undoubtedly the most vulnerable during an emergency. It was no different when multiple quakes struck Nepal last year. Children’s lives were shaken beyond their comprehension, education came to a standstill and their overall wellbeing was under threat."
Girls and boys described the ongoing fear of another earthquake, potentially triggering further landslides, and the possibility of it occurring while they were on their way to, or at school.
“Time alone will not remove the children's fear. We need to make children feel safe again and find a positive way for them to live with their memories of destruction, insecurity and loss. Parents and teachers need to learn how to support traumatised children to help them regaining confidence for their future”, states Sebastian Zug, Country Representative of Terre des hommes in Nepal.
Despite emergency response efforts building 3,567 temporary learning centres - which enable children to return to school - more than one year after the earthquakes 30 per cent of children continue to report studying in unsafe schools, many complaining of cramped and noisy classrooms. More than 60 per cent prioritised the construction of earthquake-resistant schools as their top concern.
UNICEF Representative Tomoo Hozumi said: "The situation could have been far worse if the earthquake occurred on any other day than Saturday when schools in the country are closed. The geophysical conditions of Nepal mean there are no 'safe zones' when it comes to major earthquakes. We believe making schools earthquake-resistant through retrofitting or new construction is one of the up-most priorities not only in the earthquake-affected districts but in the entire country."
Children who took part in the consultation expressed desire to be consulted in further recovery discussions. Seventy per cent of children stated their voices had not been listened to during the response, and about 95 percent stated that they wanted to be consulted through discussions at the community and local level, child-clubs, at school, through their parents or directly through organisations.
Plan International Nepal’s Country Director Mattias Bryneson said: “All children have the right to grow up in a safe and protective environment. We hope the concerns of the children affected by this tragedy will be better taken care of in the recovery and reconstruction phase of the earthquake response."
Despite the huge challenges faced by aid agencies to reach all of the earthquake survivors, the large majority of children - 98 percent - reported to have received support in the months following the earthquake, by way of food items, cash, shelter, temporary shelter materials, mobile health camps and support for school items.
World Vision’s Nepal Earthquake Response Director, Jennifer MacCann said, “Moving forward, in the coming months we are hopeful to focus on recovery work that will benefit children and restore their sense of safety and normalcy in their schools, homes and communities.”Attachments: