Creating a safe environment for Nepal’s children after the earthquake

Publicado: 8 junio 2015 6:15 CET

By Ly Nguyen, IFRC

Three hours away from Kathmandu in Sindhupalchok district, lies the village of Melamchi. Sindhupalchok was severely affected by the April 25 earthquake, with 95 percent of the houses collapsed or damaged. Shortly after the earthquake, the Japanese Red Cross Society set up its Basic Healthcare Emergency Response Unit (ERU), which has been receiving an average of 220 – 250 patients a day.

“Without the support from the Japanese Red Cross team and the equipment they brought, including the X-ray machine, we would have a very difficult time meeting the demand of the patients,” said Dr. Kshitiz Sapkota, medical officer in charge of the Melamchi primary healthcare centre.

Besides basic healthcare services, the team is also providing psychosocial support especially for children. Schools have been closed for more than one month and families are still living under tents and tarpaulins. The normal lives of the children here are disrupted as they have lost a place where they can study and interact with friends and classmates. Many are also struggling to cope with the memories of the earthquake and still fear for their safety.

The Red Cross created a child-friendly space to engage the children in group and recreational activities such as traditional games, arts and crafts and singing songs. By giving them the opportunity to have fun, the children are able to focus on and enjoy the moment rather than live in fear of further earthquakes.

“The here and now is very important for kids,” said Reo Morimitsu, Japanese Red Cross psychosocial support delegate. “We aim to create a safe environment for them to have fun. This is part of the process of recovering a sense of security.”

Another activity is flower planting. "Having them planting and watering flowers is a way to foster a new daily routine, increase connectedness among the kids, and make them feel empowered and responsible for something they created," said Morimitsu. Since the children planted the small garden in front of the health centre a few days ago, they have come back to water the flowers every day.

The child-friendly space is operated by the psychosocial support delegate with the support of two volunteers and a local staff member who has received psychosocial support training from the Nepal Red Cross Society. Since the earthquake, the Red Cross has been managing six child-friendly spaces in Nepal. In coordination with partner National Societies, the Nepal Red Cross Society will continue to carry out training in psychosocial support for volunteers.

At the hospital in Melamchi, the local youth volunteers who received Red Cross training have also been carrying out community hygiene promotion activities for both adults and children. Most of their homes have collapsed and some of their family members were injured or killed during the earthquake. However, this only motivated them to want to contribute to the betterment of their community.

“If we provide this knowledge to the community, they will teach others and the cycle will be repeated,” said Tsichu Shrestha, the 15-year-old team leader. “It can help save lives.”

These are small but meaningful initiatives to assist communities in the process of recovery and rebuilding their dignity.