Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Striving for Normal

"The children are having nightmares; they're irritable, they cry a lot and want to stay near to their mothers."
"We're also working with the teachers who survived the quake. They're anxious, they need support and they also need to know what to say to the kids."
Anita Querirazza, Italian child psychologist, Nepal
Tents dot the landscape in Kathmandu following an April 25 earthquake. (Peter Bregg for National Post) - See more at:
Photo: Peter Bregg -- Tents dot the landscape in Kathmandu after the April 24 earthquake

Nepal suffered two devastating earthquakes between April 25 and May 12, with numerous aftershocks in between. Terrified Nepalese were unable to find peace of mind, fearful of yet other tremors that would wreak further havoc in what has already made their lives a misery of panic and fear. And these are the survivors. A death toll of 9,000 is still being assessed. Hospitals and aid workers from the international community are still coping with the 6,800 injured.

A half-million homes were destroyed and an additional 270,000 homes were damaged. The convulsed earth continues to produce massive landslides that destroy entire villages, make roads impassable and ruin crops. The affected zones continue to experience massive tremors up to 6.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, on a daily basis. Little wonder the population is traumatized, the children in a state of perpetual confusion and fear creeps into their sleep patterns turning them to little-understood nightmares.

The state of emergency that prevails is estimated to extend into two months at the very least, as authorities and their foreign partners attempt to cope with the destruction of the massive earthquakes. Some of the villages in the steep mountain regions have not yet been reached by emergency workers. Landslides have cut off access through roads. Helicopters make their daily flights dropping basic emergency rations of food, water and tarpaulins.
Plan International  distribution centre
People collect rice and tarpaulins from Plan International at a distribution centre in Shikharpur -- Photo Peter Bregg

Of the 75 districts in Nepal, thirty are damaged, and of those fourteen have sustained utterly critical disarray. Two districts, Dolakha and Sindhupalchok, have been the worst affected. The capital has seen dreadful damage but the city remains open to business routine even while it desperately attempts to recover its equilibrium. Parks in Kathmandu are crowded with tarpaulins sheltering people too intimidated by fear to return to their fragile homes; that is, those who still have homes.

New buildings built to modern standards were able to withstand the quake's effects for the most part, while the old structures built of sand and river stones quickly collapsed. There is a need to move ahead to replace them as swiftly as possible so people can move into them with the confidence that they will shelter them safely in the event of further tremors, for when the monsoon season arrives on the near horizon, the tarpaulins will be ineffective at sheltering people.

Already severely damaged mountain roads will become vulnerable to complete washout when the monsoon rains arrive. With that rain will come mosquitoes and then malaria will loom as a threat. If flooding ensues with the rain, given the compromised water system, the threat of cholera will present itself. Nepalese farmers in vulnerable areas must spur on their activities to get their crops in, to rebuild their homes in case roads leading to them become impassable.

The government had assured that schools would reopen toward the end of May. Local authorities are still struggling to be able to open schools that were destroyed, collapsing in the earthquakes, and requiring to be replaced. Their replacements for the immediate future will be temporary until such time as more permanent structures can be built, enabling children to return to school and a scheduled routine in their disrupted lives.

Video thumbnail for Aftershock: Nepal

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