Looming crisis for children’s emotional health


Looming crisis for children’s emotional health

Global News 00:00
On 5 May, Samikshya Chalise, 12, sits amid rubble outside her destroyed home, in remote Gerkhutar Village Development Committee (VDC) in Nuwakot District, 1 of 12 districts that have been severely affected by the massive earthquake. Samikshya’s school was also destroyed during the earthquake. Samikshya and her 8-year-old brother, Sanjog, visit the destroyed school, which is near their home, all the time. “I miss my school very much," Samikshya said. About 950 people have been killed and 1,300 people have been injured in Nuwakot, nearly 30,000 houses have been completely destroyed, and the homes of 140,700 people have been damaged. Four young students in Gerkhutar VDC were killed in the disaster. In early May 2015 in Nepal, an education crisis threatens primary school enrolment progress made over the last 25 years, in the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the country on 25 April. Schools are scheduled to reopen on 15 May. However, education for nearly 1 million children in jeopardy as a result of the disaster. Nearly 24,000 classrooms have been damaged or destroyed by the massive earthquake, with many sustaining further damage in subsequent aftershocks. Many others that are still standing are serving as emergency shelters for some of the thousands of people who are now displaced. Dropout rates, already high before the disaster, remain a major concern. About 1.2 million Nepalese children between the ages of 5 and 16 either have dropped out or have never attended school. UNICEF and partners are working with the Government to get children back into the classroom as quickly as possible. Support includes the set-up of temporary learning spaces and child-friendly spaces in 14 earthquake-affected districts, to provide a safe place where children can play and learn, to help them regain a sense of normalcy, and to help them cope with their experiences. UNICEF is also supporting government efforts to prepare national guidelines on the use of schools as

© UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1156/Panday
Twelve-year-old Samikshya sits in rubble outside her destroyed home in Gerkhutar Village, Nepal. Samikshya’s home and school were destroyed in the first of two massive earthquakes that have hit Nepal recently.
KATHMANDU, Nepal/ HONG KONG,14 May 2015 – Children in Nepal are facing an unprecedented emotional toll as they deal with the devastating consequences of two major earthquakes in two and a half weeks, warned UNICEF.

Thousands of children and their families have poured back into informal settlements across the country – after the May 12 quake left many too afraid to return home.

“We cannot underestimate the psychological impact on children of these repeated powerful tremors,” said Rownak Khan, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Nepal.

“I was very close to the epicentre when Tuesday’s quake hit and children were hugging one another and crying for hours as people fled their homes. We know that many children are suffering from nightmares, some are extremely stressed and cannot sleep, while others are constantly clinging to their parents.”

UNICEF is reinforcing its operations in affected areas – including in the districts of Dolakha and Sindhupalchok, worst affected by Tuesday’s quake. As well as providing clean water, sanitation and vital medical supplies, the children’s organisation is also prioritising psychological support for children who are dealing with extreme stress.

“We need to be on high alert to provide emotional first aid for children when and where it is needed,” Khan said.

“It is immediately obvious when a child does not have food, shelter or clean water. However, the signs of emotional distress – like anxiety – can be hidden from view and can cause serious long-term damage if they are not dealt with.”

To help children cope with their experiences, UNICEF is:

  • Supporting specialist counsellors in the worst-hit areas of the country, who will offer specialist assistance to children in need;
  • Running dozens of child friendly spaces in informal settlements where children can access psychological support;
  • Supporting art therapy classes for children;
  • Running a special programme on Radio Nepal – Bhandai Sundai – that offers call-in counselling to children in more remote parts of the country. The programme was on air within 10 minutes of the May 12 quake hitting;
  • Deploying teams to identify and assist any children who could have become separated from their families;
  • Helping to open up schools and establish temporary learning centres to help children get back to education and offer them a safe space and a vital sense of routine.

“It is important that we do all we can to offer children the psychological support they need as well as a safe environment and a stable routine to help them come to terms with their experiences,” said Khan. “The children of Nepal have already been through so much and we must do everything we can to give them back a sense of childhood.”

UNICEF has launched an appeal for more than HK$390 million (US$50 million) to support its humanitarian response to the earthquake in Nepal over the next three months, as part of a wider inter-agency flash appeal.

Donate NOW to support Nepal Earthquake response