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Nepal earthquake: people terrified of aftershocks as they try to rebuild

Philip Maher, a Guelph aid worker who returned to Canada from Nepal on Thursday, says that aftershocks are a daily concern for people there who survived the devastating earthquake that hit the country six weeks ago.
A child-centred space in Nepal set up by ChildFund. The areas are safe places for children to learn and play and deal with the aftermath of the earthquake that hit the country in April. (Philip Maher)

Philip Maher, a Guelph aid worker who returned to Canada from Nepal on Thursday, says that aftershocks are a daily concern for people there who survived the devastating earthquake that hit the country six weeks ago.

"I was up in the hills there and we had an aftershock and a child ran out from the temporary shelter he was living in and he fell 10 feet, dropped 10 feet, fell down one of the hills and he came to clinic close to where we were staying," said Maher, in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Friday.

"This kid had trauma, he was vomiting, he was not well as a result of falling. It's an example of how people are feeling. Every time there's a trauma it's a reminder that you can't trust the earth. It's a reminder that new problems are going to come on the horizon," he said.

Philip Maher, of Guelph (right), taking a break from relief work high in the foothills of the Himalayas, in Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal. (Philip Maher)

Maher worked with the Christian Children's Fund in Nepal, which is setting up temporary education centres and safe spaces for children to play. The group is just one of many aid organizations working in the country, helping residents deal with the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude quake on April 25 that killed over 8,800 people. Another huge quake, with a magnitude of 7.3, struck on May 12. 

The area that the CCF is set up is one of the hardest hit in the country, according to Maher.  

Every time there's a trauma it's a reminder that you can't trust the earth.-Philip Maher, aid worker

"It's a district that was where about 90 per cent of the homes were destroyed. And it's a very mountainous area, it's the foothills of the Himalayas technically, but it's quite mountainous, very difficult to get to," he said. "Your average drive is four, five hours just to get to a distribution point or a school that's been destroyed." 

CCF is providing food, as well as tarps and basic shelter materials for families, but more importantly helping provide psychological support for children. CCF has created spaces for children to play as well as temporary learning shelters, where children can meet friends, learn and play. 

"That way they can sort of start to cope with literally living under a tarp in many cases," said Maher.

He said routine is important for kids, and it gives the parents a rest. Parents are trying to find food, shelter and are dealing with their own trauma, so CCF helps with the children, allowing parents to do the tasks needed to rebuild their lives. 

A young girl works in one of CCF's child-centered spaces in Nepal. The aid group is doing work to support children in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that hit the country at the end of April. (Philip Maher)

The UN is asking for $422 million in aid relief to help Nepal, but it estimates that funding will only last to the end of September. 

"When you're looking at over 500,000 homes destroyed, 10-15,000 schools destroyed. We're talking hundreds of millions into the billions of dollars in order to reconstruct these kinds of facilities in Nepal," said Maher. 

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