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Women’s and Children’s Vulnerability after the Earthquake

April 25th started out as any other ordinary Saturday;it was a weekend for the citizens of Nepal. No one would’ve ever thought of the devastating disaster that awaited them; an earthquake that would not only take more than 8000 lives, destroy several national heritages and people’s households, but also severely affect the lives of the ones that were spared; physically and mentally. Many lost their loved ones, their limbs, their homes, but most of all, their emotional stability. And not even mere two weeks later, another huge earthquake of 7.4 Richter scale took away whatever was left standing. The second one threatened the stabilising conscience of the citizens, and did nothing but scar them more. Amongst them, women and children have comparatively fallen victim to anxiety and irrational fear. Of course, aid was sent (and is still being sent), from across the globe, after the declaration of the state being in a national crisis; but people need more than materialistic objects to cope up with such life-changing catastrophe.

Women and children, especially, suffered through a lot of irreversible psychological trauma. They are still in constant fear of losing whatever they have left of themselves, and their lives. Evaluating the current situation, statistics show upsetting results of the quake; 404,000 children suffering from malnutrition, 200,000 pregnant and breast-feeding women malnourished, 1.5 million school-aged children in need of education in emergency support and more than 500,000 households without houses. Many people are vulnerable on the basis of socio-economic, language, religious, caste, ethnic and geographic structures, according Nepal Flash Appeal Revision. However, women and children are particularly more vulnerable in this situation as the consequences of the earthquake may lead to forced human trafficking, significant increase in prostitution, high risk of sexual violence and exploitation, as well as, early marriage. Dr FlaviaBustreo, WHO’s Assistant Director-General of Women’s and Children’s Health states that Nepal has made a substantial development and potential improvement to reduce child and maternal mortality. But, she also states that, “Women and children are often the most vulnerable and most affected in such disasters,” adding, “First of all, both women and babies are more susceptible to injuries. The harsh living conditions that follow a disaster like this, with unsafe food and insecure and temporary shelters, affect them disproportionately, especially young children under-five. Lack of safe water and sanitation can often lead to diarrhoea and pneumonia—two of the leading killers of infants. Vaccination programs are often swept to the side, as we have seen in the Ebola crisis, making children even more vulnerable to deadly, age-old diseases that are vaccine-preventable, like measles,”

Looking at the condition of Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake, there were several cases of children trafficking through fake adoptions, which prove that traffickers will take maximum advantage of the on-going chaos to recruit people. This is not unlikely to happen in Nepal, since, Nepal has always been a country of migration and government does little to facilitate these migrations. Hence, we can clearly see why women and children are more vulnerable in a situation of national crisis such like an earthquake, particularly, in the case of Nepal.

-Sharmin Thapa

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