Kathmandu, July 25
Three months after the first of two major earthquakes hit Nepal, UNICEF said it is reaching out with direct cash transfers to approximately 330,000 households, including an estimated 450,000 children, in the districts most affected by the quakes, who with their families are at risk of slipping further into poverty.
UNICEF said in a press release that it has provided the Government of Nepal with financial and technical support for emergency cash transfers amounting to US$15 million through the government’s existing social assistance programmes in the 19 districts that have been declared most affected by the earthquakes. Recognising that many children rely on wider family support structures, the cash transfer is provided in the form of a top-up of Rs 3,000 (US$ 30) to the regular payments received by over 400,000 vulnerable individuals including Dalit children, people with disabilities, widows, the elderly and endangered ethnic groups.
“When a major disaster strikes like the earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, it incurs not only loss of lives but also destruction of assets, sources of livelihoods and substantially reduces household income particularly among the most vulnerable population,” Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Representative in Nepal, said in the statement.
“During such times poor households often resort to harmful coping strategies, such as reducing food consumption and cutting down their health and education expenditure, and sending their children to work — all of which can have irreversible long-term negative consequences on them and more so on children’s development. The top-up cash provided will help vulnerable households to at least meet some of their basic needs such as food and medicine without further resorting to harmful coping strategies during these lean times,” he added.
In order to provide relief as quickly and efficiently as possible, and without creating separate structures, UNICEF has utilised the government’s existing systems and provided support to strengthen programme implementation and monitoring. Where timing allows, the top-up is paid along with the regular social assistance payments, but may be distributed separately. The first payments started on July 9 in Sindulpalchowk and are ongoing in a phased approach across the 19 districts.
The vulnerabilities faced by the survivors of the earthquakes, especially in the hillsides, also include deterioration of water and sanitation services, disruption of schools and health services, and heightened risk of protection issues such as trafficking. The situation has also been exacerbated with the onset of the monsoon and access to the hills is becoming increasingly challenging.
“Together with the government and partners, we have been able to achieve a lot in the past 90 days. At the same time, given the enormity of the damages and losses, and the possible impact of the monsoons, there is a lot more to be done to bring a sense of normalcy to the lives of the earthquake survivors especially the most vulnerable amongst them,” Hozumi said.
The Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) estimated between 700,000 and almost 1 million people in the districts could be pushed below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day due to loss of houses, income-generating opportunities, productive assets and durable assets.
• 10,000: Children have been identified as acutely malnourished since the first earthquake
• 1,000: Children have been identified as suffering from severe acute malnutrition
• 200: Children remain without a parent or caregiver
• 600: Children have lost one or both of their parents to the quakes
• 32,000: Classrooms have been destroyed
• 900,000: Houses have been damaged or destroyed
• 700,000 to 1 million: People in the worst-affected districts could be pushed below the international poverty line of US $1.25 a day
Services so far
• 1,000 metric tonnes of essential supplies including tents, hygiene kits, therapeutic foods, vaccinations and other life-saving medicines, medical kits, bed nets, newborn packages, and school-in-a-box and early childhood development kits procured.
• Over 100,000 children were assisted to continue their education in UNICEF-supported temporary learning centres
• Clean water to over 650,000 people in homes and camp settings
• Restoration of birthing centres in more than 150 health facilities
• Helping intercept 513 children and women from being trafficked or illegally moved out of the country
• Psychosocial support to nearly 30,000 children to help them recover from their experiences
A version of this article appears in print on July 26, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.