Nepal earthquakes one year on: Education continues in affected districts, but children still need safe and stable learning environments

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KATHMANDU and TORONTO, April 25, 2016 /CNW/ - A year after devastating earthquakes in Nepal, 1.6 million school children are starting the new academic year in affected areas.  Yet many of them continue to study in temporary classrooms.  While recovery and reconstruction efforts are moving ahead, much remains to be done to ensure a rapid return to normalcy and predictability for these children.

"The devastating earthquakes last year destroyed or severely damaged over 35,000 classrooms. After that, tremendous amount of efforts were made to bring children back to school as soon as possible to minimize disruption of their education and exposure to risks of neglect, exploitation and violence," said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Representative to Nepal.  "Thanks to these efforts, schools in affected districts were reopened a month after the first earthquake in makeshift classrooms.  Now we need to redouble our efforts to ensure children can study in safe transitional or permanent classrooms as early as possible." 

The 2015 quakes caused Nepal financial damages and losses equivalent to 36 per cent of its GDP.  A year later, there are still many needs to be met for children and families in the affected districts – be it a permanent roof over their heads, a safe school building or moving on with their livelihoods.  Further prolongation of uncertainty can affect not only the education of children but also their health, nutrition, protection and overall development.

Children and women in Nepal still face several challenges. Many are still living in temporary shelters and studying in temporary classrooms, while some health centres are still functioning under tents. And, the fear of another natural disaster remains very real.

Canadians' generous support helped with humanitarian response and rebuilding efforts

"Canadians responded with overwhelming generosity when devastating earthquakes struck Nepal, stepping up to help the people of Nepal with life-saving support," said David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. "Thanks to their generous donations, UNICEF was able to help children in the worst affected areas not only survive, but also begin to rebuild their lives, by providing things like clean water, shelter, and education."

Within hours of the first earthquake striking, UNICEF was there, distributing vital supplies to children and women, supporting the restoration of basic services, providing cash assistance to vulnerable groups, and providing information at a time when communication networks across the country were down.

"The children of Nepal may never forget the horrifying disaster they lived through, but they will also remember the compassion showed to them by Canadians from across the country," says Morley.

More than 85 per cent of those displaced have now moved out of camps

Of the 188,900 people who had been temporarily displaced after the earthquake, more than 85 per cent left displacement camps, while 26,272 are still living in camps. The construction of permanent buildings for the residents of more than 700,000 destroyed houses started recently and needs to be accelerated in the months to come. In the meantime, the children and their families continue to live in makeshift shelters next to their destroyed homes.

Increase in interceptions by police to possible trafficking and protection-related risks

Children living in such temporary shelters and still unstable environments are also vulnerable to various risks, including trafficking. Between 25 April 2015 and 12 February 2016, a total of 850 girls and boys were intercepted by police from possible trafficking and other protection-related risks. At an average of 89 children per month, this number was higher than the 69 cases per month between July 2014 and July 2015.

"The increased number can be attributed to the heightened risk to children in the wake of the earthquake, but can also be a testament to increased vigilance within Nepal," said Hozumi

Following the earthquakes, UNICEF also worked with the Government and partners and helped identify and register 39,337 unaccompanied, separated and vulnerable children.

In addition, UNICEF also helped:

  • support the establishment of 1,793 temporary learning centres 
  • provide education supplies to 881,000 children and train 8,125 teachers to give psychosocial support and life-saving information for children
  • vaccinate 537,081 children under five years of age in the earthquake-affected districts against Measles-Rubella and Polio
  • provide 11,333 pregnant and postpartum women in 11 most-affected districts with access to 22 transitional shelter homes where they can stay before and after delivery to receive necessary services and care
  • screen 373,546 children aged six to 59 months to assess their nutrition status
  • reach 1,314,920 people with emergency and longer-term water supply services
  • provide 890,589 people with hygiene kits and key information on good hygiene
  • distribute emergency cash transfers of US$ 30 per person targeted to approximately 435,000 most vulnerable groups of people in the 19 earthquake-affected districts
  • reach one million people in most affected areas with critical and life-saving information through special radio programs

In the coming months, UNICEF will help:

  • build 74 earthquake resistant and fully equipped prefabricated health facilities with birthing units in  nine earthquake-affected districts
  • provide safe water by assessing, repairing and rehabilitating 3,000 water schemes
  • build 800 semi-permanent school structures with two classrooms each
  • include school safety issue as an integral part of the new education sector plan for the period of 2016 to 2020
  • organize second round of the emergency cash transfer program to reach an estimated 250,000 children under five years of age in the 11 most earthquake-affected districts

 

About UNICEF
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.

SOURCE UNICEF Canada

For further information: To arrange interviews or for more information please contact: Stefanie Carmichael, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8866; 647-500-4320 (mobile), scarmichael@unicef.ca

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