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Nepal earthquake two years on: much needs to be done for a resilient nation

by Shreeram KC, Plan International | @PlanAsia | Plan International
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 04:27 GMT

A girl at a temporary school built by Plan International

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* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Exactly two years ago today, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal at 11.56am. It killed nearly 9,000 people, injured 22,000, and caused $8 billion worth of damage. As well as people’s homes being destroyed, 8,000 schools were reduced to rubble, disrupting the education of over one million children.

Reflecting on the earthquake

Two years on, only 1,500 of these schools have been reconstructed, meaning that many children are still learning in only a temporary environment – or not at all. Although we should be thankful that rebuilding has begun – and that the earthquake struck on a Saturday rather than a school day – so much more needs to be done.

As a child rights organisation, responding to the needs of children was our top priority when the earthquake hit. We started our response by providing immediate relief to children, families and communities in the remotest parts of Nepal. It was not an easy task. The roads to these communities were not good even before the disaster, and some areas are only accessible after two to three days of walking at the best of times, so it was not until four to five days after the quake that we managed to reach them.

When we arrived, people were crying, worrying and restless. They were in desperate need of food, water and shelter and in a state of confusion and panic because, in the weeks and months following the initial quake, we faced several aftershocks a day. Some of these registered as high as 5.2 on the Richter scale, so it felt like it was happening all over again and you can imagine the constant fear that people were living in, wondering if the world would ever stop falling apart.

Our response to date

In the months that followed, and to the present day, our response has focused on helping people rebuild their lives and livelihoods, and on restoring a sense of normality to children’s lives. Natural disasters should not be allowed to put them at a disadvantage – they must have the same chance as every child everywhere in the world, to reach their full potential.

However, although schools are running, they lack sufficient facilities. Likewise, rebuilding homes is taking time. The government is providing grants, but the pace is slow and many parts of Nepal appear no different from how they looked in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. 

In spite of this, there is always hope and, over the past two years our hard work has led to 12 new schools being built – with 10 more under construction – in the areas worst affected by the disaster. Each one is inclusive for children with disabilities and is purpose-built to withstand future disasters.

They have been warmly received by the communities who are benefiting from them – altogether over 5000 children will be able to attend – so, out of the devastation and destruction, it has been possible to create something positive that will be there for generations to come. 

Preparedness is key

With Nepal being one of the most disaster-prone countries, preparedness like this is a must. The risks associated with earthquakes need to be identified in advance so that plans to address those risks can be made.

Communities also need to be made aware of what they can do to prepare and to save lives.

This will only be possible if governments and development agencies invest and continue working together.

Aside from the 14 quake affected districts, the government needs to assess the school buildings that remain standing and must put measures in place to make them safe. The government and other agencies should also work to create an evacuation plan to make sure school children know what to do if disaster strikes again.

This is what will bring us hope in difficult times and will make us feel stronger. If a day like 25 April 2015 happens again, next time we will not be worried – rather, we will be prepared because we will have taken the time to create a truly resilient nation.

Learn more about Plan International's work in Nepal