Three months after the first of two major earthquakes hit Nepal, UNICEF is reaching out with direct cash transfers to approximately 330,000 households including an estimated 450,000 children in the districts most impacted by the quakes, who with their families are at risk of slipping further into poverty.
UNICEF 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 declared to be 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 NRs. 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 25 April and 12 May, 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," said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Representative in Nepal.
"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."
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 on-going 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.
UNICEF has continued to provide a range of support to the most deprived communities in the 14 most affected districts by providing essential services and supplies.
According to a press release issued by UNICEF, in the past three months, UNICEF has Procured 1,000 metric tonnes of essential supplies nearly worth US$6.5 million and disbursed US$ 5.3 million worth of supplies, including tents, hygiene kits, therapeutic foods, vaccinations and other life-saving medicines, medical kits, bed nets, newborn packages, school-in-a-box and early childhood development kits among others and eEnabled over 106,000 children to continue education in the 1,060 UNICEF-supported Temporary Learning Centres (TLC) together with 1,015 TLCs built by other members of the Education Cluster. However, with over 32,000 classrooms destroyed, there is still a need for additional 2,592 TLCs for Education Cluster as a whole.
Similarly, it has supplied clean water to over 655,910 people in homes and camp settings, 44,838 people with sanitation facilities, and over 326,000 people reached through hygiene interventions and supported the conduction of Child Nutrition Week Campaign in the 14 districts to reach more than 450,000 under 5 children and 150,000 pregnant and lactating women. Identified 860 severely acute malnourished (SAM) children who are being administered therapeutic feeding.
UNICEF has supported training on psychosocial support for over 2,000 teachers thereby benefitting about 90,000 children and provided diarrheal kits to reach over 400,000 children to prevent and treat diarrhoea.
It has restored birthing centers in more than 150 health facilities. Over 2500 pregnant women, postpartum mothers, newborns, children and 2500 caregivers received health care, shelter and food from 22 transitional shelter homes established in 11 affected districts and supported partners for the interception of 513 children and women from being trafficked or being illegally transported.
It has provided 28,387 children access to 229 Child Friendly Spaces in informal camps to help children recover from their experiences as well as a safe place where they can play and learn.
UNICEF has Provided 10,000 minutes of psychosocial counseling and critical information through daily programs on national radio, and over 30,000 minutes of key life-saving messages through 65 community radio stations.
“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," says Hozumi.
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.
”The earthquake has exposed the fragility of Nepal’s progress in terms of poverty reduction,” continued Hozumi. “Looking beyond immediate relief, one of the priorities for UNICEF is to assist the government to phase in a reliable and predictable form of income support for children and their families by strengthening and expanding the country’s social protection system and improving its responsiveness to shocks. Greater income security for Nepal’s children will help ensure their well-being and development during normal times and increase their families’ ability to cope in case of future disasters.”