A Case of Rupesh Shrestha
Following the second (35 seconds, 7.3 Reciter Scale) earthquake that terrorized Nepal on the 12th May, ICRI Nepal Country Director, Dhirendra Lamsal, paint's a picture of what life is like for some of the children ICRI serve, with the story of Rupesh Shrestha:
In Gongabu Bus Park Shelter of Kathmandu, a 4 year old boy named Rupesh Shrestha says, “Daddy! Is the corpse stinking?” when he heard someone saying “the corpses are stinking”, upon his visit to the area with his dad. There is lot of psychological fears among the children taking shelters in various parts of the country after the earthquake that shook Nepal on 25 April 2015. This will have serious natural psychosocial effect among these innocent children.
A total of 1.7 million children have been displaced so far and more than 95,000 children are living in temporary shelters/camps in different parts of the country. The death toll has so far reached 8,000 and more than 17,000 people are said to be injured by the earthquake. The death toll could rise as final reports from the earthquake affected hilly districts are yet to be compiled. It could take weeks to collect details of information about the human casualties and property damaged by the earthquake The National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) has said more than 6.6 million people have been directly affected by the tremor and around one million people have been rendered homeless. The Home Ministry of Nepal has said that more than 500,000 private houses, government buildings and heritage sites were either completely destroyed or partially damaged by the tremor mostly in the Sindhupalchowk, Kathandu Valley (Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur), Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre, Nuwakot districts.
Children whose houses are damaged, relatives dead in the earthquake have more negative psychosocial affect and it’s far worse among those who are injured and have their body parts disintegrated. Our recent survey indicates that these children have developed problems such as fear of going inside their house, not sleeping at night in the temporary shelters, have the feeling of ground is shaking every time, fear to stay alone, having the disinterest in playing and entertainment. We have seen such problems even among the children admitted in the hospital. These children immediately need psychosocial support and counseling. If we don’t address the effect of psychosocial problems in these children in time then it will have a long lasting effect on them till their adulthood. There are also the signs of dizziness, vomiting, falling down psychiatric system among the children affected by the earthquake. It is very important to provide orientation on psycho-social aspect of children to those parents whose children are having traumatic experiences over the past few days. Also, we immediately need to install temporary child protection shelters where children can play and express themselves in areas affected by the disaster in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur Districts as well as in the Sindhupalchowk, Kathandu Valley (Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur), Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre, Nuwakot districts.
In this regard, ICRI-Nepal provided orientation to the NCLR teachers and deployed them in 3 shelters of Balambu and Sankhu of Kathmandu and Khokana of Lalitpur. Our teachers have been trying their level best to create as much child friendly environment as possible in these areas. It has been observed that these children have started expressing their emotions trough dance, games, play, art and craft works. Also, we have made arrangement for the regular supply of learning materials and nutritional food for the children. Sunita Paudel’s seven year old son does not have fear of earthquake now. She says that the service provided by ICRI-Nepal has given her relief and further hoped it would help her son learn some discipline whereas her son used to nag her a lot earlier. Similarly, Parbata Thapa told our teachers that her eight year girl would get scared if they heard loud noise of vehicle or when the ground vibrated due to vehicle but now they did not feel anything like that after they were attended by our teachers.
With the above success, ICRI-Nepal plans to install 50 temporary child protection shelters across the country, mostly in Sindhupalchowk, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Gorkha, Dhading, Kavre, Nuwakot and Dolkha districts. It is estimated that each protection shelter will have around 40 children, totaling 2,000 children in 50 locations. The center will be equipped with indoor/outdoor learning materials, toys and games (Please see the list below). These shelters will be facilitated by a trained local school teacher and/or psychologist so that the immediate needs of the children are responded to the level required. The shelter will provide nutritional food for the children and provide counseling for the parents and the community people. We will collect children from within the community or from temporary group shelters at 10:00 AM and hand over to their parents or relatives at 2 PM. The shelter will create as much enabling environment as possible by engaging children in various activates such as art and crafts work, games, dance, and reading and writing. The sole purpose is to distract them from incidents happening around and help them overcome the trauma. From our ongoing experiences, we can say that those children, who have been kept in a safe and prospective environment where they feel safe and can express their feeling, will significantly help in reducing trauma. Parents, guardians, teachers and care takers who look after children also need strong at such times and provide psycho-social support to their needs.