Listening to children’s voices at the epicentre and elsewhere

May 10, 2016

By Avinashi Paudel

Gorkha, Nepal - When the earthquake struck Nepal last year, the quiet village of Barpak suddenly came to the limelight. Everyone wanted to go, hear and help the people of Barpak, the epicentre of the 25 April 2015 earthquake. Many did. However, not much was done to listen to the voices of children and adolescents there. Following the earthquake, children even walked for miles to collect relief items and ran errands at par with the adults. However, the specific challenges they were grappling with were largely overlooked.

Against this backdrop, UNICEF’s partner Changa Foundation went to Barpak and consulted with children there. That was the first time the children of Barpak had been given a chance to express their griefs and challenges collectively through group discussion, body mapping and other tools.

“So many programmes had been organized in Barpak for the adults but this consultation is the first one to include adolescents like us,” said Jaswan Ghale, a 16-year-old from Barpak.

“When we shared our experiences, the emotions deposited deep down came forth and we were very relieved,” Sabina Sunar, 15, also of Barpak said with a smile. “It felt good and empowering.”

Exactly three months after the April earthquake, ‘Children’s Consultation Report’ was launched, encapsulating recommendations based on interactions with 1,800 children of the 14 most earthquake-affected districts. The recommendations from the children fed into the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment led by the Government and the South Asia regional-level policy dialogue on child-centred disaster risk reduction, as well as various other programmes and policies. As a second step to these consultations and to further leverage the momentum of child-responsive disaster risk management, an additional 680 children in five earthquake-affected districts, including the epicentre, were consulted in March 2016.

Jointly organized by UNICEF and Plan International, Save the Children, World Vision and Terre Des Hommes, the second round of consultations were intended to be a channel for conveying the voices of adolescents to the ears responsible for formulating local and national policies and programmes on making communities and related facilities and services more disaster resilient.

The consultations provided feedback from the quake-affected children on the various challenges they face following the disaster. This feedback included the challenges of having to live in temporary shelters and study in temporary learning centres, of not having proper WASH facilities at home, in shelters or in schools, the lack of adequate nutrition, and the physical and mental stress triggered by the earthquakes and the numerous aftershocks.

Taking stock of the challenges and recommendations voiced by the children, a report will be launched soon. It will highlight the continuous challenges that children are facing, and help to promote responsiveness to child- and youth-related issues and their opinions in the recovery and reconstruction process.

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