Scores of people were killed when a second earthquake struck Nepal on May 12. Many more are in urgent need of help. The 7.3-magnitude quake struck some 76km east of Kathmandu, in close proximity to the first quake on April 25.
“This second earthquake has really complicated the situation on the ground. For children who survived the first earthquake, this amplifies their terror and trauma,” says Unicef Malaysia representative Wivina Belmonte.
“Within the next 72 hours, what’s most important is the search for survivors. We need to rescue children from the rubble and provide them with medical aid, water, food, sanitation and temporary shelter. It’s vital to reconnect children with their families to give them security and comfort amidst the chaos.”
Getting Nepalese children back to school by May 15 was an initial goal set after the first earthquake. However, in the wake of the latest quake, the date will have to be reassessed. About 40% of Nepal’s population are children under the age of 18.
“Our target was to get 1.1 million children back in school as soon as possible. The second quake will make things harder, but there is still a massive push to do so. To get schools up and running is one of the best things that you can do for children in an emergency situation. It’s important to restore routine and normalcy, because schools are often safe places for children,” says Belmonte, who highlights the urgency of ensuring children have proper shelter during the monsoon season.
“The monsoon season has arrived early. We’re dealing with repeat earthquakes and rain. It’s a disastrous combination. We need to move children from temporary shelters outside to safe homes inside.”
Unicef has a long track record in Nepal. It was established in the country 40 years ago, and has worked on emergencies in Nepal with trusted partners and the government.
“We were in Nepal before the earthquakes and we’ll be here after the emergency has slipped off the headlines. We know the country and we know how to get around.
“We’ve worked with the government to get social systems, water systems and the school system up and running. We’re part of a coordinating mechanism that is aimed at rebuilding the country in a sustainable way.”
Belmonte says that Unicef is committed not only to immediate relief work, but also to the long-term goal of getting the disaster-stricken nation back on its feet. She says that the objective is to rebuild Nepal so that the earthquake-prone areas will be able to withstand any emergencies.
“We need to rebuild better so that what we build can withstand the shock and doesn’t crumble. Given its location, it’s no surprise that Nepal has had earthquakes. We need to be more prepared for the future.”
Belmonte welcomes the public’s interest in donating to Nepal. According to Unicef’s experience in the field, monetary donations are the most useful.
“If you want to make a difference, the best way to do so is by giving money to organisations that you trust. Money refuels the local economy. Moreover, if you buy local goods, the people in need are much more familiar and comfortable with them.”
Those who wish to donate to Unicef Nepal Earthquake Children’s Appeal can visit unicef.my/emergency or issue a crossed cheque or bank transfer payable to ‘United Nations Children’s Fund-Emergency’.
For more information, visit unicef.my or call 03-2092 5812/2095 9154 during office hours, Monday to Friday.