Eight-year old Sushmita Pariyar has always taken care of her younger siblings as she has busy parents. Now, a week on from the earthquake in Nepal, she’s watching them again, while her parents go door to door asking for help to rebuild their dilapidated house in Bagbazar, Kathmandu. But today she’s happy spending her time with her siblings and other children at the child-friendly space at the Tundikhel ground, which houses Kathmandu’s largest number of families displaced by the earthquake.
Last week’s massive earthquake drove tens of thousands of people into open spaces and temporary camps. Many families are struggling simply to protect themselves from the sun and rain. The child-friendly space was established this week by Unicef, with local partner Seto Gurans, to give children a safe, sheltered space to play and be with other children. “It’s really a sight of great relief to see them not crying but smiling and having fun at the same time,” says Sunita Shakya from Seto Gurans.
Over 100 children could be be seen playing with puzzles, toys and dolls, rope skipping and just enjoying being with other children. “I’m having fun,” says Sushmita while still being protective of her younger brothers Anil and Sunil, who are six and eight years old.
Staff from Unicef and Seto Gurans have been acting as their guardians while parents are busy managing their tents and running around for food and water for their children. “There are many children across the country who are affected seriously by the disaster and we wanted to create this centre so that they can be at peace,” says Unicef’s Sabina Shrestha.
“I like being here. It is like my school,” says seven-year-old Jayanti Ghimire while she works on a puzzle and reads a book to her three-year-old sister, Manita.
The number of displaced families is now reducing, especially with Kathmandu’s long-time residents moving in temporarily with their friends and families. It’s mostly the migrant families from outside the Kathmandu Valley who make a living with low-paid jobs who are left in the camps as they have no friends or relatives to help them in Kathmandu.
Now that the child-friendly space is set up, parents are breathing a sigh of relief watching their children relax. The two tented centres are full of books, toys and activities for children, and provide shelter from the heat, rain and insects.
“The centre has been a great aid to keep the children distracted from all the bad experiences and helping them to move on,” says Seto Gurans’ volunteer Deepika Khadgawal, who had come all the way from the remote Dadeldhura district in far western Nepal to help.
Unicef has over 200 staff working in Kathmandu and the surrounding area, delivering tents, clean water and other life-saving supplies to children and families. But supplies are running low. Your donation could help us keep a child safe.