Nepal’s Earthquake Babies
Childbirth is never an easy thing, especially not in the aftermath of a major earthquake that has destroyed your home, livelihood and health facilities. Add to this the facts that you are carrying twins, and that you have a history of complications during birth, and you are left with a nightmare scenario.
This was the case for 32-year-old Maili Bharati who was around six months pregnant when the first earthquake hit Nepal and destroyed her village. Injured by falling rubble during the quake she spent the first few days after the earthquake living under tarpaulins, and for the first month they had no electricity in the village.
The earthquake also wiped out all the health services in her remote village and the nearby area, so when the time came, she was forced to walk for two and a half hours to the nearest town of Melamchi where doctors referred her on to Kathmandu, as their equipment had been destroyed by the quake. This meant another three hours in a crowded public bus and then a further 30 minutes on foot to reach the hospital. At this point Maili had been in labour for over 24 hours and her husband Dhuba Raj had to physically support her as they moved slowly along the chaotic streets of Kathmandu.
Thankfully next morning, with the aid of a caesarean section, she gave birth to two healthy boys – Ram and Laxman. As we sit talking to Maili, perched on the end of her bed, in their smoky iron sheeted home, the babies gurgle happily in their swinging cots and against all odds seem to be fit and strong.
“I am very happy to have my babies,” says Maili, “but I’m really worried how I will raise them; where we will live and how we will send them to school,” she adds. At the moment they are living in a temporary shelter made out of iron sheeting provided by CARE and other materials they were able to salvage. But it is far from ideal. “When it rains it makes a lot of noise of the sheeting and the children wake up and cry. It can get very cold and sometimes water gets in, so it will be difficult to keep the babies healthy during winter,” says Maili. “Even my face is a bit swollen from the cold nights,” she adds.
CARE has been supporting Maili and her family with iron sheeting to help them build a temporary shelter and vegetable seeds to regain their livelihood. Two of the family’s goats were killed in the earthquake but luckily their buffalo survived and their fields remained ok so they are able to continue farming.
For them shelter still remains the biggest need; “If we can manage to make a strong home then life will become a bit normal again,” says Maili. CARE is working with Maili’s family and others in the village to give cash vouchers so people can buy the items and materials most necessary to them.
Babies Ram and Laxman are two of many babies born in the shadows of the devastating Nepal earthquake. CARE has also been supporting families with ‘dignity kits’ which include blankets, underwear, hygiene products and other basic items for new mothers as well as safe, female-only spaces where women can go to breastfeed and meet in peace and safety.
Although Ram and Laxman’s future still remains very uncertain their parents have hope; “one positive thing that has come from the earthquake,” says Maili’s husband Dhuba,”is that so many people came to help. We never expected it, and even our own community came together and helped where it could.”