Lost homes and loved ones
Supporting children and families impacted by the earthquake in western Nepal
Jajarkot & Rukum West, Nepal: It was nearly midnight on the evening of Friday, 3 November. The residents of Aathbiskot Municipality in Rukum West District had just gone to bed, the settlement lit only by the blanket of stars draped over its mountain neighbours.
12-year-old Dhanraj BK had been sound asleep.
“Suddenly, I felt things fall on top of me.”
An earthquake of 6.4 magnitude that just hit the region, shaking and shattering the walls and roof of Dhanraj’s home. The structure – as with most traditional homes in the area – was a mud and stone construction, and it quickly buckled.
Dhanraj remembers being stuck under debris. And surrounded by darkness. He doesn’t know how long he lay there for, until he heard shouts.
“My family members pulled me out and we ran away from the house. I thought I was dead, I was so relieved to be alive.”
Meanwhile, in Nalgad Municipality, in nearby Jajarkot District, six-year-old Smriti had also been asleep, her didi (elder sister) next to her. The little girl had been lying on her stomach when stones started raining down on top of her, pinning her foot in place.
Unable to move, Smriti called out to her didi. She didn’t respond. “Her face was covered in dust and she wasn’t speaking."
Smriti’s mother and brother had gone to bed in different rooms. She screamed for them, but they didn’t come either.
Alone and in pain, she called out for her neighbour.
“I cried and cried for Thulba. He finally came and got me out.”
Smriti would soon learn that none of her family members – save her grandfather and aunt – had survived the quake. Her father, who works in a nearby district, has since returned to take care of the little girl as well as carry out funeral rites for his wife, children and other loved ones.
Dhanraj and Smriti's experiences illustrate a critical truth: Children are often the most vulnerable during disasters. Almost half of those reported killed and injured in this latest disaster have been children.
UNICEF estimates around 250,000 people, including 80,000 children, are affected in the seven municipalities of Jajarkot and Rukum West that have been hit the hardest, although this number is likely to rise as assessments continue.
To respond to the situation, UNICEF teams have been on the ground since the very first day, working with the Government and partners to assess the situation, identify the needs are and provide relief.
As of 10 November, over 25,000 people - including more than 8,680 children – have received tarpaulins to set up temporary shelters and blankets, as well as critical water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies, including hygiene kits, plastic buckets and water purifying solution.
These supplies had been prepositioned by UNICEF in its field offices, precisely in preparation for a disaster such as this one, ensuring that relief could reach communities quickly and efficiently.
In addition, UNICEF has set up three medical tents in select areas to facilitate the resumption and continuity of essential healthcare services, especially for women and children.
Recognizing how disasters such as this one can cause deep psychosocial trauma in children, UNICEF is also actively supporting the establishment of child-friendly spaces. Six such spaces have been set up so far in the two districts, with an additional 10 in progress.
Psychosocial counselors and community-based psychosocial workers have also been mobilized to provide needed support to children and families.
While the true scale of the tragedy unfolds every day with more details coming in, UNICEF continues to be on the ground to respond to the urgent needs of those affected — now and in the tough days to come.
And as children begin to come to terms with what’s happened and move to rebuild their lives, we’ll be with them.
Learn more about the unfolding situation and UNICEF’s response efforts here: https://www.unicef.org/nepal/reports/nepal-earthquake-humanitarian-situation-reports