Nepal: children still at risk three months after devastating quake, UNICEF warns

Three children play with a rusted wheelbarrow in the town of Singati, near the town of Charikot in Dolakha District, Nepal, epicentre of the 12 May earthquake. Photo: © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1499/Sokol

Three children play with a rusted wheelbarrow in the town of Singati, near the town of Charikot in Dolakha District, Nepal, epicentre of the 12 May earthquake. Photo: © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1499/Sokol

Nepal, 27 July 2015 – Three months after Nepal’s devastating 25 April earthquake and its aftershocks, children continue to face multiple risks as their families have been pushed deeper into poverty and they remain in need of aid, warned the United Nations’s Children Fund (UNICEF).

“When a major disaster strikes like the earthquakes on 25 April and 12 May, it incurs not only loss of lives but also destruction of assets, sources of livelihoods and substantially reduces household income particularly among the most vulnerable population,” said Tomoo Hozumi, the UNICEF Representative in Nepal, over the weekend.

Although the humanitarian situation has improved over the past three months, hundreds of thousands of Nepalese children still need shelter, food, access to water and sanitation, medical care, education and protection.

About one million of them continue to live in areas at high risk of landslides and floods, points out UNICEF in a press release. As the rainy season takes hold, access to these areas is becoming increasingly challenging, threatening these children and putting them at a higher risk of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking.

More than 10,000 have been identified as acutely malnourished since the first earthquake, including more than 1,000 with severely acute malnutrition. Over 200 children remain without a parent or caregiver, and more than 600 have lost one or both of their parents to the quakes. Over 32,000 classrooms have been destroyed and nearly 900,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed.

According to a Government-led assessment, between 700,000 and almost 1 million people in the worst-affected districts could be pushed below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day, stated UNICEF.

“We know that when going through difficult times, poor households often resort to harmful coping strategies, such as reducing their food consumption, cutting down their health and education expenditure, and sending their children to work – all of which can have irreversible negative consequences on them and more so on their children,” Hozumi said.

“The top-up cash provided will help vulnerable households to at least meet some of their basic needs such as food and medicine without further resorting to harmful coping strategies during these lean times.”

To help address the immediate needs of children and their families affected by the quakes, UNICEF is providing $15 million worth of direct cash transfers to approximately 330,000 households, including an estimated 450,000 children. This support, channeled through existing government social assistance programmes, is reaching vulnerable individuals including Dalit children, people with disabilities, widows, the elderly and marginalized ethnic groups.

”The earthquake has exposed the fragility of Nepal’s progress in terms of poverty reduction,” continued Hozumi.

“Looking beyond immediate relief, one of the priorities for UNICEF is to assist the government to phase in a reliable and predictable form of income support for children and their families. Strengthening and expanding the country’s social protection system and improving its responsiveness to shocks will contribute to children’s well-being and development during normal times and increase their families’ ability to cope in case of future disasters.”

Since April, UNICEF has also been providing a wide range of services to the children and families living in the areas worst hit by the earthquakes.

“Together with the Government and partners, we have been able to achieve a lot in the past 90 days. At the same time, given the enormity of the damages and losses, and the possible impact of the monsoons, there is a lot more to be done to bring a sense of normalcy to the lives of the earthquake survivors especially the most vulnerable amongst them,” said Hozumi.