Why Children Matter: Vulnerabilities and Needs of Children in Disasters

Jeevan Baniya, Tracy Ghale, Nilima Rai, Amit Gautam, and Lacchindra Maharjan

Disasters have differential impacts on communities and groups depending on their socio economic status as well as geographical locations which are vulnerable not just to climate and natural disasters but difficult terrain and access to resources (Drolet et al. 2015). Globally there is an increasing recognition that children as one of the most vulnerable groups during disasters, face various problems and challenges related to health, food availability and nutrition, education, shelter, risks of physical and sexual abuse, trafficking and child labour (Bartlett 2008; Flåte 2018; Seballos et al. 2011; WHO 2007).

This paper looks into the differential impacts, vulnerabilities and needs of children and their families during emergencies in Nepal. Based on the study, we argue that children are one of the most vulnerable groups in the event of a disaster as they have impacts and needs specific to them due to a number of factors – first, economic hardships and mental distress in the family following disasters are the main reasons that adversely affect children and the fulfilment of basic needs such as food, hygiene and shelter as well as long term needs of continued education and mental wellbeing. Second, children, especially, those below 10, are unable to effectively articulate their needs and hence are more prone to the emotional/psychological upheavals that emanate in the aftermath of the disasters.

The study was carried out in the three research sites – Gaur in Rautahat District; Barhabise in Sindhupalchowk District; and Thuladurlung in Lalitpur District during the period between August and December 2018. The study covered different types of disasters namely floods, earthquake and landslides. The study utilised a qualitative approach that included a review and analysis of the literature and key policies on disaster and children; key informant interviews (KIIs) with government institutions, non-governmental organisations, local leaders and activists; semi-structured interviews (SSIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs) with parents and in some cases grandparents of children from the age cohorts of 0-3, 3-5 and 5-8.

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