By Sharmina Manandhar
KATHMANDU, 11 December 2016 - Sushila Phuyal was six months pregnant when the 7.8 Richter scale earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April 2015.
A member of the Nepal Police, Ms Phuyal was called on duty to Birtadeurali village of Kavrepalanchowk District and was immediately put on rescue mission. She was in the village when the second earthquake struck a fortnight later which levelled over five dozen homes.
"We dug out many corpses, including that of a pregnant woman and also a mother and a child. But we also managed to dig out seven people alive from the rubble,” she said.
As Nepal experienced numerous aftershocks in the months that followed, Ms Phuyal continued to work continued to work, despite her delicate situation.
As the health post in her community had been damaged by the earthquake, she was all prepared to travel to Kathmandu for what she had been told would be a complicated delivery due to the baby's breech positioning.
However, when she learned that a birthing centre had been established under a UNICEF tent right in her community, she opted to deliver her baby there instead. Ms Phuyal had an uneventful childbirth and lived under UNICEF shelter home nearby before going back home to her family following the delivery.
She recently recounted her experiences at an event where she launched UNICEF's photo book 'Under the tent' and helped inaugurate a three-day photo exhibition. The exhibition of 70 photos from the book, which coincided with celebration of UNICEF's 70th anniversary, was also held under two UNICEF tents, which had been part of a hospital south of Kathmandu Valley following the earthquakes.
"It is because of the proper care and support that I received at the UNICEF shelter home after my delivery that I and my son are healthy and happy," said Ms Phuyal, who had come to the event with her son, now 15 months old. "I hope UNICEF will continue to put smiles on the faces of mothers like me."
The pictorial publication highlights the stories of people – the children, adolescents, men and women like Ms Phuyal who lived, took shelter, provided or availed of services under UNICEF tents during the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes that damaged or destroyed thousands of homes, health posts, hospitals, schools, radio stations and other structures. In order to help ensure smooth operation of necessary services to the people in the 14 most earthquake-affected districts, UNICEF distributed tarpaulin and tents.
Speaking on the occasion, UNICEF Representative to Nepal Mr Tomoo Hozumi said, "We published these photo books in English and Nepali not just to show what role the tents played in the humanitarian response phase following the disaster, but also to remind us of what the situation was like, and how we need to be better prepared for disasters in the future."
The UNICEF tents served many purposes – from medical tents that housed outpatient services and operation theatres at the hospital premises to child-friendly spaces that provided safe spaces for children to play and have fun. The tents were also used to set up temporary learning centres to quickly provide learning space for children whose schools were damaged or destroyed during the earthquake as well as to establish shelter homes that provided a safe and caring environment for pregnant women, new mothers, their babies and caretakers.