Aid groups: Children miss school, fear abuse after Nepal quake

LONDON – Inadequate shelter, school closures and a lack of safe water and sanitation are the three biggest concerns of Nepali children affected by two huge earthquakes, said a major survey published on Saturday, the three month anniversary of the first quake.

Children interviewed by aid agencies in the aftermath of the disaster also expressed worry about the lack of privacy and space, with younger children fearing attacks by wild animals, and girls feeling vulnerable to sexual harassment.

“Living under the sky increases our exposure to abuse,” an adolescent girl from Sindhupalchowk, a district hit by the earthquakes, told an aid worker.

At least 2.8 million people, around 10 percent of Nepal’s population, need urgent help according to a UN report published earlier this month. Almost 9,000 people were killed by the quakes on April 25 and May 12.

Nearly 2,000 children were interviewed by four charities, in what they described as one of the largest ever child consultations ever undertaken following a disaster.

“Tens of thousands of children are living in inadequate shelters, said Lucia Withers, author of the report. “It is still a race against time to provide basic needs of shelter, sanitation and protection.”

Withers is humanitarian adviser for Save the Children, which conducted the survey alongside Plan International, UNICEF and World Vision.

Separate research carried out by Oxfam in Dhading district to the west of capital Kathmandhu found that women and adolescent girls feel at risk of physical and sexual abuse in temporary shelters which are often overcrowded.

The situation is particularly bad for single women, often widows and divorcees, who tend to be isolated and receive little in the way of community support, Oxfam said on Saturday.