In a remote village in Nepal, families who lost everything in the earthquake struggle to feed their children and keep them safe – and to help them get over the fear that won’t go away.
MAHADEVSTHAN, Nepal/ HONG KONG, 29 April 2015 – When the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal just before noon on 25 April, Ajay Rai Danwar, barely 7 years old, escaped death by using his best instincts.
© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Karki
Akriti Tamang, 8, looks for her books among the rubble where her home stood, in Sanga Chowk, Sindhupalchowk district, Nepal.
|“I held on to this and didn’t let go until the shaking stopped,” Ajay explains as he grasps the pipe of the family’s biogas plant outside their home in Bhangar, a remote village of 15 households in Mahadevsthan Village Development Community, Kavre district, nearly 100 kilometres south of Kathmandu.
“I cried a lot and heard everyone screaming, but I closed my eyes until the earthquake disappeared,” he says, looking at his mother, 30-year old Bhawani Danwar, who forces a smile.
When the village’s 20 buildings started collapsing – all of them made of mud and brick walls supported by wooden pillars – parents had their worst nightmare.
“Our children were so brave on their own, because most parents were busy working in the farms and couldn’t reach home, even when we ran so fast,” Ms. Danwar explains.
Binay Danwar, 5, was inside his grandmother’s house when it was toppled by the quake. Villagers were able to dig him out of the debris, but they couldn’t save him.
The rest of the children in the village survived, but everything has changed.
“We need help”
© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Karki
A family living in a makeshift tent in Tundikhel, an open ground located in the heart of the Kathmandu city.
|The sight of ruined houses constantly reminds them of that dreadful day. Families are now living in tented camps, and the tents often leak during torrential rainfalls that have been occuring daily.
The frequent aftershocks are a cause of panic among the children.
“Even a slight movement of the ground scares them, and we are doing everything to calm them,” says 40-year old Mangal Bahadur Danwar, who almost lost his 5-year old daughter Sushmita when she was trapped under a heap of debris after their two-story house collapsed. His friend Harka Danwar managed to pull her out in time.
Today, his daughter is still traumatized and gets frightened at even a slight movement of the tent when the wind blows.
“I don’t know how to bring her back to normal. We need help,” says Sushmita’s father, complaining that no aid worker or journalist or government official had visited their village yet. This was the first time they had the chance to share their stories.
“I am scared to be alone,” says 6-year-old Bina Danwar. “I feel the earth is shaking every day.”
She demonstrates how she reacted during the earthquake. She sits down and buries her head on her knee, holding it tight in her arms.
The children in the village walk everywhere together now, afraid to go anywhere alone. They spend most of their time outdoors, as they have no homes to live in except for the small tents they share with their families. They survive on the little food that their parents can afford.
|Most of the families lost their cattle and cannot provide milk for the young children. The food supplies that farming families usually stockpile for six months are lying under the debris, unreachable.
Food prices have skyrocketed.
“We cannot afford to buy enough food, because we don’t have any money,” says a tearful 65-year-old Rita Danwar, showing us her destroyed house.
Like all the parents in the village, she is worried about the impact of homelessness on the children, as they continue to endure the rainy weather and lack of proper food supply.
“When will we get our homes back?” asks Bina, who wanders around in the debris of her house that she misses very much.
© UNICEF Nepal/2015/Panday
Jesica Shrestha, 9, is checked by a local health official in Sankhu. Jesica’s best friend was killed when the two of them hid beneath a table as the earthquake struck.