‘Everyday is about surviving’: Street children and the Great Quake
The earthquake of April 2015 and the numerous aftershocks had severe impacts in most of the central hill districts of Nepal including the capital, Kathmandu. With months after the major quakes and recurring aftershocks, every individual, however difficult, is trying their best to shift towards normalcy. In this quest towards coping the stress brought about by the earthquake are also the street children. The global literature of natural hazards suggests that the children are one of the most vulnerable groups during the time of calamities. It is also observed the number of street children shoots up after such disasters.
Like in any other unplanned city and highly unequal society, in Nepal too the street children are present in all the major urban centres. Being one of the by products of uneven development and rich-poor divide, the street children have always been a segregated group from the ‘mainstream’. The derogatory and abusive term ‘khate’, used to denote the street children in Nepal, by and large describes their exclusion from the society. As an isolated group, they are increasingly vulnerable and have been so for decades, primarily because the society views them as threats. Research conducted in many parts of the world has shown that they are the easily available targets of perpetrators who are involved in illegal activities. UNICEF (2008) has reported that already precarious and in the streets, these children become subjected more towards harassment, drug abuse and trafficking. Considering that they are entitled to numerous forms of vulnerability, they need a coping strategy for their survival. With the lack of organized institutional support to the street children to deal with the stresses brought about by the earthquake, this ignored aspect needs exploration and elaboration.
Based on 15 in-depth interviews with the street children, the paper focuses on their daily life, and more significantly, on their strategies to tackle the predicaments after the earthquake. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, each of the 15 children were visited more than twice in the streets, in their homes, or the institutions working for them. The main argument of the paper is that the life of the children on the streets is already full numerous vulnerabilities and challenges, and therefore remains least affected by the earthquake.