|Ram Patiya Mahato, 32, holds her 10-day-old baby girl, who was born on the day of the flood and named Dahariya (dahaar in the local language means flood). She stands beside her husband Hari Mahato Dhangar, 35, who rushed her to a local school when she was in labour as flood-waters entered the village.|
Devastating floods in Nepal have claimed lives and displaced thousands of people. Communities are now confronted with damaged or destroyed homes and schools, ruined food stocks and an increased risk of waterborne diseases. UNICEF and partners are providing immediate relief to those affected and supporting early recovery efforts.
By Sunir Pandey
Rautahat, Nepal, 6 September 2017 – When Ram Patiya Mahato, 32, went to bed on Friday 11 August, she expected to go the next day to a medical facility to give birth to her fourth child. Instead, she woke to see her home flooded.
Roads were obstructed and there was no local transport available.
As the floodwaters started rushing into their village, her husband Hari Mahato Dhangar, 35, managed to carry her to a nearby school building just in time.
Soon after, with the help of women from the community, Ram gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Family and neighbours have started calling the little one Dahariya, after "dahar" which means floods.
|A mother holds her 24-day-old baby in front of a home destroyed by floodwaters.|
Rautahat in southern Nepal is one of 36 districts where incessant rainfall starting on 11 August 2017 triggered widespread flooding and landslides, claiming 159 lives, affecting 1.7 million and temporarily displacing more than 350,000 people throughout the country.
While adults like Ram and Hari worry how they will take care of their family and deal with the loss of livestock and food, many children face another problem.
School has been closed for 10 days now. Up to 85 schools in Rautahat are occupied by families displaced by the floods or still need to be cleaned of the sludge left behind.
Across Nepal, floods and landslides have damaged or destroyed a total of 1,958 schools, affecting the education of 253,605 children, according to government estimates. These children have lost their schoolbooks, stationery and clothes, including school uniforms.
Many of the people affected by the floods remain without access to safe water and sanitation facilities, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases.
|A woman and her child wait to receive relief items distributed by UNICEF, including a treated mosquito net and blankets.|
UNICEF relief efforts
UNICEF Nepal National Ambassador, nun and international music star Ani Choying Drolma and UNICEF Country Representative Tomoo Hozumi met Ram, Hari, Dahariya and other flood-affected families during a visit to assess the humanitarian situation and needs.
The team distributed hygiene kits, baby clothes, long-lasting medicated bed nets, buckets, mugs and blankets.
Rajan Sah, Facilitator from the Water Supply and Sanitation Office in Rautahat, reminded everyone of the importance of hygienic practices, like washing hands with soap, to protect against the increased risk of waterborne diseases.
At a school, more than 50 children gathered excitedly as Drolma opened up two tin trunks inside a classroom. From one of the trunks she pulled out a handful of toys.
“You put your hand in here and use your fingers to wiggle the ears,” she explained, demonstrating how the children can play with the glove puppets.
Of the two trunks provided to the school by Drolma as part of UNICEF’s post-disaster education support, one was filled with learning material and the other a recreational kit with kindergarten play material.
|UNICEF Nepal National Ambassador Ani Choying Drolma puts on a puppet show for children in a revamped classroom in Shree Bhagbati Primary School.|
Urgent need for support
At another community where homes were inundated with water from the river, Drolma recalled how the 2015 earthquake had damaged her house and made her homeless too.
"There is an urgent need for support for the people here who have lost everything, including their homes," she said. "Urgent support is also needed to ensure that schools can be started as soon as possible for children who must not lose any more school days.”
So far UNICEF has distributed over US$320,000 worth of supplies as part of its emergency response and is appealing for additional funds for hygiene kits, household water purification, therapeutic food for severely malnourished children, essential school supplies for children and repairs to water taps.