SURKHET : Sharmila BK of Bheri Municipality-3, Jajarkot is a nursing mother who gave birth to a baby only a month ago. She was breastfeeding her 30-day-old daughter when the earthquake hit last Friday at around midnight. When the house began to shake, she rushed out and saved her daughter along with her. Now she is living under the open sky and is worried about her daughter due to the exposure to increasing cold and inadequate diet for her and her newborn.
The earthquake has forced her to struggle on the street at a time when she requires rest and proper diet.
As she struggles to get a proper diet, she says, “I wonder how shall I ensure my daughter’s well-being.” Finding warm clothes for her daughter has also been a challenge. The cold weather has posed a big threat to their health.
On Tuesday, she received a tent, a blanket and a mattress. But she doesn’t have any kitchenware. She manages her cooking with just one pot lent to her by a kind neighbor.
At night, dew seeps through the tent provided by the ward office. She said, “I hold my daughter close all night to shield her from the cold. I’m concerned about how many more days we will have to endure this difficult situation.”
Another quake victim Laxmi BK had affectionately named her nine-month-old daughter Sahara, perhaps with the hope that she would be a source of support in her later years. However, now Laxmi is facing challenges in providing two square meals for her daughter. They now live in an open field after the earthquake rendered their house uninhabitable.
Five days after the earthquake, the ward office has provided some relief materials. The family of five including the mother-in-law does not fit inside the tent provided by the local government. She has not eaten any solid food for the past six days. “I spent two days without eating anything. A neighbor then gave some rice to my daughter,” she said, adding, “Now the ward office has provided us with a bag of rice and five kilos of pulses and finally we are having some decent food.”
Kalpana Shah’s situation is similar to that of Sharmila and Laxmi. She has not been able to eat properly since the earthquake destroyed her house. She hasn’t been able to breastfeed her one and a half month old son Anush with sufficient milk. Kalpana is worried as her son fell ill after the disaster. “My son’s body is swollen, his eyes have become sore,” she said, “The doctor says that he will be healthy after the mother eats nutritious food, especially liquid food, but where do I get such food amid such a crisis?”
Kamala Sunar has a family of eight. She has a five-month-old son with her. Her family has received nothing from the ward office except a tent. The family’s stock of food grains and warm clothes lie under the debris of their house that collapsed during the earthquake. Kamala says that the government does not understand the pain and problems of nursing women. “Because we don’t have food, our children can’t eat. We have only received one tent when we need protection from the cold,” she said. She is looking for a donor to provide warm clothes for her children.
“We don’t have money to buy food and clothes, no one has come yet with helping hands,” she said. She said that all the members of the family, including her son, fell ill after they were forced to sleep on the cold floor under the tent. “The drops of dew leaking from the tent have made everyone sick. We have been spending the night shivering in the cold,” she said, “It would be easy if all the members of the family had a tent that did not leak, as well as clothes to wear and lay down.”
According to government data, 67,174 members of 9,186 households have been displaced in Jajarkot. Likewise, 101 people including 29 boys and 22 girls lost their lives in Jajarkot. Pediatrician Dr Navraj KC said that the effects of the earthquake have started to be seen among the children. “Now children have started to suffer from cold and diarrhea,” he said, “If they don’t eat nutritious food, it is likely to cause a big problem.”
He said that the traumatized children who lost their parents are likely to develop mental problems and the government should pay attention to this too.