THE BLOG

Nepal Earthquakes: Two Years On

24/04/2017 13:24
AFP via Getty Images

Two years ago today, I found myself caught up in one of the world's most devastating natural disasters, the Nepal earthquakes.

On this morning, in 2015, I was visiting one of Plan International UK's projects in Eastern Nepal when the building we were in started to shake. Before I knew what was happening, we had taken shelter as people ran from buildings screaming. Later, I discovered that Nepal had been hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and three weeks later would experience another one a similar size. In 30 years of development work, I've never seen anything like it.

My thoughts are still very much with those whose lives changed forever as a result of the earthquakes. In total, close to 9,000 people died and nearly 900,000 homes were destroyed. The disaster led to a collapse in infrastructure, pushing 700,000 people below the poverty line and devastating Nepal's education system.

In a matter of minutes, one million children had their education disrupted, with 8,000 schools destroyed or damaged. In the time since the earthquake, Plan International has provided a way back into education for 35,000 children through temporary schools set up straight after the disaster and state-of-the-art permanent schools which are safe, earthquake-proof and disabled-friendly.

The recovery is progressing well but faced with a challenging terrain which makes it difficult to transport building materials, only a few hundred permanent schools have been reinstated.

Along with building schools, Plan International has helped nearly 300,000 people by rebuilding water points, supporting the construction of safer shelters and providing families, particularly women, with access to longer-term employment, but we still have a long way to go. The road to recovery is a long one, especially after a disaster of this scale and that's why it's so important that the international community continues to support efforts to get Nepal back on its feet.

I've followed Nepal's progress carefully over the past two years, feeling a personal connection to the country and its people. Seeing the smiling faces of children as they attend their new schools, built by Plan International, is incredibly heart-warming.

One girl who's benefiting from a new, safe, earthquake-resistant school is 14-year-old Manju from Dolakha in Nepal. For the past two years she's been attending a temporary school.
Manju said: "If we were not in school, we would be just like our parents, who can hardly write their names. We would just be working on the farm, and doing traditional work.

"In the old school, if there was an earthquake, we didn't have safe, open spaces for us to go to. Now, with the new school, it will be much bigger and so if the shaking starts, we can all come together."
As much as it is about providing opportunities for these students, it's also about making them feel safe and protected against any future emergencies.

Experiencing the earthquake first-hand and seeing people lose their livelihoods and homes was heart-breaking, but with the amazing support of the British public, families in Nepal are starting to get their lives back on track.

To find out more about Plan International UK's work in Nepal, visit: www.plan-uk.org/nepal

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