Sarita’s story is tragic. She lost her husband during the Nepal earthquake and their house was destroyed. Sarita herself was rescued but she received a spinal cord injury that limits her mobility and makes her dependent on relatives to help her getting around. Despite all that has happened Sarita doesn’t let herself get down, she fights back! It’s her belief in herself that helps her endure these hard times of loss, pain and dependency.
Sarita lives with her son Ajit (12) near Chautara, in Sindhupalchowk district – one of the 14 most affected districts during the Nepal earthquake. The quake took Sarita’s husband and also destroyed their mud house. Sarita herself was severely injured in the quake and was airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment. For over a month, Sarita was admitted in a government hospital in Kathmandu where she received treatment for her spinal cord injury. As she recovered, she was given a pair of crutches to support herself. Now Sarita can manage to stand and take a few steps. After her son goes to school in the morning, she requests her relatives to help lift her to her elder sister’s ration shop where she spends the whole day.
Sarita is one of the people with disabilities and older people identified by Ageing and Disability Focal Points (ADFPs) – an initiative of cbm in partnership with the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal (NFDN). These ADFPs are set up in some of the worst affected areas of three districts in central Nepal namely Sindhupalchowk, Kavre and Makwanpur.
Krishna Bista, district coordinator of ADFP project in Sindhupalchowk says: “…we will request the district authorities to issue [Sarita] a disability card so that she gets some additional benefits. As such, we have made sure Sarita gets equal relief distributed by the government and the international agencies to the locals.”
Below is an excerpt from a conversation with Sarita Tamang at her elder sister’s shop near Chautara, Sindhupalchowk district, on 8th July:
Where were you when the earthquake struck on April 25?
“That Saturday some guests were to meet at the District Forest Office where my husband works as a house keeping staff. As he had a slight pain in his back, I joined to help him do the task. We were cleaning a room on the second floor when the two-storey building started to shake. I had never experienced anything like that before… I quickly pulled my husband and tried to hide under a table. But he was hesitant and got up to see what was happening. Within moments, a large part of the ceiling came crashing on us. Because I was under the table, I was injured badly below the waist. But my husband was crushed under the concrete. As I lay there, I could see Setu breath his last. After an hour of severe pain and bleeding I too lost consciousness…”
How did you receive treatment for your injuries? Did you get to see your husband again?
“All I remember is a group of Army personnel pulled me out of the rubble and carried me towards a helicopter. There were several others with broken limbs and bleeding body parts. That was some six hours after the quake. The helicopter first took us to Dhulikhel Hospital and then to Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu… No, I didn’t see my husband again. I heard that his body was taken out only on the third day. My relatives performed the last rites...”
Where do you live since your return from Kathmandu?
“I stayed with my elder sister for a few days, after I returned from Kathmandu. I then received compensation from the government for the loss, which I used to buy some tin sheets. We also recovered some tin from the old house. Later, my relatives helped to build a temporary shelter. I live there with my son… My daughter got married last year and lives with her husband in Kathmandu. She was the one who took care of me when I was admitted in the hospital.”
What are you doing these days? What are your plans?
“Every morning, when my son goes to school, I request my relatives to help me get up to my elder sister’s ration shop. I sit here during the day and help her sell the goods. She has been very supportive… I like to be amidst people and do something. I don’t want to sit alone in the house and feel sorry for what has happened. I want to fight back.”
What are your major challenges? What can be done to support you?
“The biggest challenge is my health. I need to recover soon and get back on my feet. I need to earn money to take care of my son. I cannot sit like this and seek help from others all the time. Once I can walk on my own, I’ll find some work to run my family.”
What makes you endure so much? What’s the source of your strength?
“I was very worried when I was admitted in the hospital. I used to cry a lot. But then I realized there’s no point crying over what has happened. Even now, I feel like crying. But I hide it and wear a smile… The fact is, there’re so many people have lost their family members. And they’ll never come back. So what’s the point of crying… There’s a lot of responsibility on me. I need to look after myself and my son. How long can I be dependent on others? My relatives will help for a day or a month. After that I need to stand on my own and take care of my family. So, I believe in myself. This is my strength.”