Sanitation nightmare looms with 20 toilets for 5K people

  • Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: Apr 30, 2015 00:55 IST

Sanjita Buddhathoki, in her 20s, fishes out a packet of noodles for her three-year-old who has been wailing to be fed his first meal of the day. It’s half past noon.

In a tent crammed with 25 people — none of whom have bathed or changed clothes since April 25 the mother opens up the packet and thrusts the contents into his hands.

The boy gorges on the uncooked noodles. It has been his staple since the family moved to a refugee camp in Tudikhel in central Kathmandu after their house collapsed.

“That should keep him quiet for a while. Many sleep on an empty stomach here. Food, water, sanitation seem like privileges,” says Sanchita.

The quake survivors are outraged by the camp’s inadequate provisions and cramped living space.

Poor sanitation poses the biggest danger as it can cause cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis.

More than 5,000 refugees at the camp are making do with 20 toilets, says Prabin Mansingh, Oxfam’s programme coordinator in Nepal.

“Answering nature’s call in public view disgusts me. But I have no choice,” says 19-year-old Manju Shreshta at a neighbouring camp in Sundhara.

The refugees visit their homes during the day but scoot back to the camps - 16 are being run by Nepalese authorities in the capital - before nightfall because of continuing aftershocks.

With more rain lashing Kathmandu on Wednesday, the survivors brace for another cold and wet night.

“We shiver at night, there are no blankets and the tents leak,” says 17-year-old Kiran Kumari Shah. Her temporary home is a camp inside the Dashrath stadium in Tripureshwar.

Lieutenant Colonel Bhim Shankar Ban, who mans the cam, says, “Many who are staying are from areas where the damage isn’t much. But fear has clouded their minds”.

Some camps, however, have begun to thin out as survivors pick up the pieces to restart their lives.

“I am travelling to China for my cousin’s wedding in May,” says Savita Goyal, a class XII student whose ancestors migrated from Hisar to Nepal. She has unfinished work to do. “My cousins and I plan to dance at the wedding to the tunes of ‘chittiyaan kalayian’,” she laughs, preparing to move out of an army-run camp in Sundhara.

Some are trying to help. Lobsang Rinzin Lama and six monks from Kopan monastery lug out massive, foul-smelling trash bags from a refugee camp. “It’s a small contribution. The tragedy is too big,” he says.

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