Two weeks on, earthquake-displaced people are shivering under flimsy tentsVarious health complications triggered by cold are stalking the camps of the displaced.
Bimala Tiruwa, a new mother who gave birth three weeks ago, has been languishing in a tarpaulin tent after the 6.4 magnitude earthquake destroyed her rented house in Khalanga, the district headquarters of Jajarkot, on November 3. Bimala says that her days are bearable thanks to the warmth of the sun but it is a tough time for her to spend the night under the tent.
“Dew runs down the tent at night. My baby and I have health problems due to the severe winter cold. Our faces, eyes, hands and legs are swollen,” Bimala said. “Neither do I have warm clothes nor have I gotten nutritious food during the postpartum period.”
Bimala and her husband, the permanent residents of Kushe Rural Municipality in the district, had been staying in the district headquarters with their three children. Bimala was a postpartum mother of three days when the earthquake with its epicentre in Ramdidanda rocked Jajarkot and several districts.
Bimala’s husband, a daily wage earner, managed food and shelter for the five-member family. But the family is now left in a lurch as he could not find work in the aftermath of the devastating quake. Bimala further said that they could not find enough support as the local unit did not prioritise people from other local bodies.
Radhika Kusari of Dalli in Nalgad Municipality-7 is undergoing a similar ordeal. She is a new mother of one month but she has to stay in a tent pitched under the open sky. She and her newborn are taken ill as they are unable to keep themselves warm under the tent.
“My baby fell ill of cold a few days ago. I had to take the baby to the district hospital in Khalanga. Now I am suffering from common cold and body ache,” Radhika said. “We don’t have enough food. The rice that we managed is about to finish.” She said that it was a great difficulty to sleep under the tent in winter.
Bimala and Radhika are not the only victims of this kind. Hundreds of new mothers and pregnant women are languishing in tents during the biting winter cold. Various health complications triggered by cold are stalking the camps of the quake-displaced people. The postpartum mothers, pregnant women, children and elderly people with chronic illness are hit the hardest.
The victims complained that they have not gotten adequate support from the government even after two weeks of the disaster. They expected that the government authorities would provide them warm clothes and manage temporary settlement but to no avail. Mainly the earthquake-displaced families from impoverished communities have a tough time managing food and shelter.
Pooja Pun, aged 19, of Dalli in Nalgad Municipality-7, is nine-months pregnant. “I am not feeling good in the tent. My due date is nearing. I already have swollen arms and legs and am suffering from body ache,” Pooja said. “I don’t know how I will overcome my postpartum period under the tent.” She said she started having health complications after she had to stay under the tent.
The government authorities are yet to collect data of total postpartum mothers, pregnant women and children in Jajarkot. According to Dr Pratiksha Bharati, chief at the district health service office in Jajarkot, the health office has collected data of Nalgad and Bheri municipalities, Barekot and Kushe rural municipalities.
“There are 10,560 children under five years of age, 1,300 pregnant women and around 900 new mothers in these four local units. We are assessing the data in other local bodies,” said Bharati.
Similarly in Rukum West, a total of 5,567 children under five, 749 new mothers and 1,068 pregnant women have been affected by the earthquake. The district health service office in Rukum West informed that 3,781 senior citizens, 596 people with chronic illnesses and 516 disabled people have been affected by the disaster in the district.
In Salyan, Darma Rural Municipality was hugely affected by the quake. Rural municipality office said it has been assessing the data. Yagya Basnet, health unit chief of the rural municipality, estimates that around 300 children under five years and around 100 pregnant women and postpartum mothers have been affected by the quake in the local unit.
Two more die of cold
Two more earthquake-displaced people who have been languishing in tents died of cold-related issues in Jajarkot. With this, the death toll caused by cold reaches seven within the past 10 days. Mansara Kama, aged 56, of Chhedagad Municipality-13, and Sugili Nepali, 89, of Junichande Rural Municipality-4 died of cold-related issues on Saturday. Around 67,000 families have been displaced in Jajarkot. “It snows in high altitude settlements in Chhedagad every winter,” said Chandra Bahadur Thapa, the deputy mayor of Chhedagad. “How can the displaced people keep themselves warm under the tents?”
(With inputs from Krishna Prasad Gautam in Surkhet)