Jaya, (name changed for privacy), 15, with intellectual disability, was set free from her station at a cattle shed in Kathmandu recently. She was locked in it along with goats and other cattle. The team of Karuna Foundation released the girl following the information provided by the local people
Maya (name changed for privacy), 16, with intellectual disability was rescued with a tip-off from the local people and handed over following charges of her sexual exploitation and rape.
These two are not the sole incidents. Karuna Foundation Nepal has saved dozens of other girls and children with disability facing similar situations.
For the Karuna Foundation, the earthquake provided an opportunity not only to reach the houses of people with disability but also helped to free them from sexual exploitations and other forms of suffering.
Along with reaching new cases of unidentified people with disability, Karuna Foundation reached parents of poor children in rural and remote parts of the earthquake affected districts.
After the earthquake on April 25, Karuna Foundation Nepal joined the rescue and relief operation and later on built temporary shelters. Karuna Foundation also prevented dozens of children leaving the village for unknown destinations.
Disasters like an earthquake may have various impacts on different people with disability ranging from their capacity to rescue, extent of damage and seeking support services.
The impacts to the persons with intellectual disability will be much higher as they cannot sense or feel it. Children with disability, particularly intellectual disability, are more vulnerable to disasters.
A study conducted by UNICEF reveals that out of ten children six live with post traumatic stress and the case is more severe in children with disability who struggle hard to save their lives in disasters.
As the parents of children with disability do have a little voice in relief and rehabilitation, Karuna Foundation Nepal has already constructed about 6000 temporary shelters to families of children and families with persons having some form of disability.
At a time when children and persons with severe disabilities, who need regular care, are unlikely to get care since their houses are destroyed and parents are focused to manage resources, Karuna Foundation has come to their rescue.
Many organizations, institutions, groups and individuals are working in the post earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, distributing relief materials to the earthquake victims each day. Karuna Foundation Nepal has a specific goal, that is, to reach children and persons with disabilities who are not taken care of while distributing the assistance. As many distributing agencies are unaware about the situation and need of the persons with disabilities, many of them have complained that they were denied relief materials because they cannot go a long distance walking.
The persons with disabilities who are using medicines due to their health conditions are compelled to discontinue their medicines.
Karuna Foundation has quietly worked and intensified advocacy and lobbying to increase the access of persons with disabilities in the immediate relief and support.
“The post earthquake situation is a challenge as well as an opportunity for us. It is difficult to reach the people with disability. However, the quake gave us an opportunity to open up many incidents which were hidden. We were also able to reach the children and persons with disability who were severely suffering from earthquake,” said Deepak Raj Sapkota, country director of Karuna Foundation Nepal. "What we learnt is that if the persons with disability had been trained about the disasters, their suffering would have been lesser.”
Natural and human-made disasters tend to have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. Different populations, when exposed to similar risks of environmental and human-made disasters, and people with disability are more prone its influence.
Although Nepal is prone to disasters like earthquake, landslides and floods, each and every individual with disability needs to be prepared for future disasters with preparedness techniques. They should be taught about mock drills, readiness of the assistive devices, finding safe places and conveying signals in case of emergency.
“After earthquake, we reached to 4923 children and 1000 adult people with disability in 14 earthquake affected zones. Our programs were targeted to them. We found some adults with disability with severe conditions. Had not there neem the earthquakes, Karuna Foundation would not have reached them. The earthquake was an opportunity for us as we reached to those remote parts of the region with cases of people with severe disability,” said Sapkota.
Along with building the temporary shelters for the families of children and persons with disabilities, Karuna Foundation Nepal has also been rebuilding health posts which were destroyed by the earthquakes.
“We have signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health to reconstruct 11 health posts in Rasuwa district. We have already handed over two health posts to the government and 3 more are at the stage of completion, three health posts have completed the ground work and there is the need to do some airlifting to construct the health posts in Yarsa, Langtang and Thuman. As we are negotiating with Nepal Army for the airlift, we will start the reconstruction work soon. We will reconstruct all 11 health posts before July and hand them over to the government,” said Sapkota.
At a time when debates are going on as to how to build the houses for poor parents of children and persons with disability, Karuna Foundation Nepal has shown an effective way to reach them and even prepare them for future disasters. Along with serving the most vulnerable communities, KFN has also reconstructed a number of health posts by working with the government because of their importance to help the affected people .