Quake-hit children face sanitation, health risk


Monsoon has not only brought torrential rains and triggered landslides, but has also increased risk of water-borne diseases and worsened sanitation conditions that could bring more devastation to disaster-affected communities in Nepal, Plan International, a child-rights humanitarian NGO, said today.

In such harsh conditions, it is often children who are most vulnerable to health outbreaks, particularly in cold temperatures and in poor sanitation conditions, it said. “We hope that this monsoon will not bring another disaster. Children who currently live without access to clean water and who lack proper shelter are at risk of infections and diseases, including diarrhoea, the second largest killer of children in Nepal,” Mattias Bryneson, Country Director for Plan Nepal, said in a press release.

“After the earthquake, existing water facilities and household toilets were damaged, many beyond repair. Without access to sanitation and hand washing facilities, or safe and clean drinking water, the risk of infectious and water-borne diseases becomes a very worrying reality,” he added.

“I am not afraid of earthquakes, but I am worried about landslides. We have tried to make our shelter stronger so that it will last three months. We have a drainage system in place but I’m worried that the trees will fall over us,” Plan Nepal quoted Nava, a 16-year-old girl, of Dolakha, who goes by her single name.

Sanitation and health are among the top priorities that children have identified during consultations with Plan International and partners. Many households have no access to safe drinking water and boys and girls are forced to defecate in the open after their houses, including their toilets, collapsed.

“I am very concerned of what will happen during the monsoon. We already have children coming to our facilities with diarrhoea and pneumonia due to the fact that they have been staying outside without access to clean water,” says a doctor, operating in a makeshift hospital after his general hospital in Dolakha collapsed in the earthquake.

“We are in the middle of a huge humanitarian response and this work may be hampered by the rainy season if roads are blocked by landslides and floods. That’s why we are building up local stocks in isolated areas and trying to distribute as much as we can before the rain gets heavy,” said Bryneson.