Working in Nepal since 1972, SOS Children was well-placed to rapidly respond to the needs of children and deliver lifesaving aid. Fortunately, no SOS children, mothers or co-workers were harmed by the initial earthquake or the second quake that hit the country the next day. SOS Children operate 10 Children’s Villages in Nepal, eight of which are located in areas badly affected by the earthquakes.
Children are the most vulnerable during an emergency. Although SOS Children is not traditionally an emergency relief organisation, this is an area of our work we are rapidly developing. The long-term work we do in communities around the world means that we are exceptionally well-placed to respond to disasters and emergency situations.
Last April, everyone at SOS Children’s Villages in Nepal came together to help the wider community in the immediate aftermath. At the Village in Jorpati, the grounds were converted into a medical camp where the SOS medical team members provided first aid, SOS mothers prepared food for hungry women and children at the medical camp, and the SOS young people helped distribute aid to earthquake victims.
The team then worked quickly to set-up Child-Friendly Spaces in 25 of the worst affected locations across the country to provide safe places where children could learn, rest and play with other children. The Child-Friendly Spaces also provided psychological support to children traumatized by the earthquakes. The spaces supported over 2,000 vulnerable children. One year on, seven Child-Friendly Spaces remain in operation in Nepal and are integral to the recovery of many children.
We welcomed orphaned children into our SOS Children's Villages, and helped reunite unaccompanied children with their parents and caregivers.
Homes, schools and entire towns and villages were reduced to rubble, leaving nearly 1 million children in need of critical humanitarian assistance. According to the Ministry of Education, over 19,000 classrooms were destroyed which has prevented hundreds of thousands of children from returning to school.
SOS Children is helping reconstruct 12 damaged government schools, and has been providing school supplies and clothing to communities – the aim is to help at least 4,800 students resume learning as soon as possible. In addition, SOS Children is covering the school fees of over 1,400 children, allowing them to continue their education.
By the end of 2015, 548 families benefited from cash donations to help improve livelihoods and sustainability. In addition, 541 families received Homes in a Box to help them restart their life. From cooking pots and cutlery to warm bedding and bottled water, these boxes contain everything families need to begin rebuilding their lives.
The road to recovery in Nepal has been far from straightforward. When the earthquakes struck Nepal, it was monsoon season – this meant long months of intense rainfall which significantly hindered the relief effort. From the 25 April to the end of June, around 5,600 landslides occurred in the country. The landslides resulted in an increase of internally displaced people.
Political tensions over new construction have led to protests, violent confrontations, and strikes. A blockade at the border with India has delayed shipments of essentials including medicines and petroleum fuels. The limited fuel supply has resulted in limited mobility for many, including SOS staff members. The delay in establishing reconstruction authority unfortunately means that many people have not been able to reconstruct their homes.
The National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Nepal, Shankar Pradhananga, explains that the verification process for people to receive subsidies from the government to start construction is very slow in Nepal.
“For organisations like SOS Children’s Villages, the government has not yet announced the guidelines on how and when we can help rebuild the houses of individual families,” explains Mr. Pradhananga. “That is why we cannot start work on any of the 320 homes we have promised to build.”
It takes approximately three months to build an earthquake resistant home. The price of construction materials has also increased and it is expected that when construction begins there will be a scarcity of materials as well as workers.
Despite these challenges, SOS Children is continuing to respond and help vulnerable families recover. Mr. Pradhananga explains that SOS Nepal will lobby the government to speed up the decision-making process so reconstruction can begin as soon as possible.
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