When losing your house means losing everything

By Sam Theodore, Emergency Comms, World Vision Nepal

Kaanchi and her husband are very worried about their three boys. The family has been sleeping under a make-shift tent for four days now. The earthquake has shattered the small life that they were building for their sons Aaram, 7, and Sri Krishna, 11; their house has been reduced to rubble and they cannot save or retrieve any of their belongings. “We don’t even have a change of clothes. When it comes to food, whatever the other people in our tent give us, we eat that,” Kaanchi explains.

Aaram recalls the earthquake, “I was playing outside and suddenly I saw everyone running and buildings falling down. I was so scared and my mother came and picked me up.”

Every night, more than 40 people are sleeping under that one tent while evening rainstorms thunder on their tarp. Not all of the families have lost their houses. Some are just sleeping outside out of fear of aftershocks and further damage. However, homelessness and sleeping outside in open spaces make children vulnerable to a lot of risks.

A close encounter

A day or two after the earthquake, a couple approached Kaanchi, and asked if they could adopt their boys and take care of them. “I didn’t know who they were and why they wanted to take care of my sons. I said no, I don’t want to live separate from my sons,” says Kaanchi.

Nepal has long been plagued by issues of child abduction, false orphanages, illegal international adoptions and child trafficking. The loss of their house has placed thousands of children like Aaram and Sri Krishna at risk of being left unprotected and vulnerable to various dangers. “I don’t know if the couple approached any more families here,” Kaanchi adds worriedly.

Kaanchi’s story highlights what we already know, that during natural disasters, we need to make sure that children are safe and protected. Giving children a safe place becomes just as important as securing food, water, or shelter.

Fears for the future

Normally Aaram’s father works as a daily wage labourer, earning around 300 rupis (£2) a day. “But since the earthquake I haven’t been able to find any work,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know how I’m going to take care of my family,” he added.

It is estimated that the earthquake has left over one million Nepalis homeless. World Vision has distributed supplies, including 1,000 tarps and 600 blankets in Bhaktapur, one of the worst hit areas in the quake. Hundreds of tarps have also been distributed in villages close to the epicentre, and we have despatched a shipment of 5,000 more.

Today we have set up the first of six planned Child Friendly Spaces in Nepal, which will ensure the safety and protection of children like Aaram and Sri Krishna. Once established, we will also begin learning centres at the Child Friendly Spaces so children do not fall too far behind in their studies while schools and homes are rebuilt.

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