|MATERNITY CLASS: Mathura Pariyar with the four-day-old baby girl she delivered in a school classroom in Bhajani, Kailali district last week. Nearby is her sister-in-law with her own baby.|
Mathura Pariyar, 28, a week away from child birth, was tending her two girls in the village of Thapapur in Kailali when flood waters crept into the village. It had been raining incessantly for days and the nearby river was rising.
Even when they were knee-deep the villagers didn't want to leave their homes. They piled cots and secured sleeping babies and children so that they would not fall into the water.
By morning the water was up to Mathura's waist. It had leaked into the granary and was gnawing away at the mud walls of their house. That is when the families decided to leave for higher ground. Mathura, heavily pregnant, gathered her girls and started wading towards Bhajani village, a day's walk away.
The villagers took whatever they could carry on their heads, on bicycles or bullock carts. Those who left early could take their livestock too. Those who waited too long lost their animals.
When Mathura reached Bhajani she found more than 300 other families already there. She found a small spot inside Classroom No 9 of the Mahanyal Higher Secondary School where a dozen other families were crammed. Livestock were tethered to trees in the school playground.
A week after her arrival at the school, Mathura gave birth to a baby girl. Laxmi Shah, a Female Community Health Volunteer from Thapapur had also fled the flood and urged Mathura to go to the health post for delivery, but Mathura wanted to be with her family. The baby was Mathura's fourth offspring, her son and husband are away working in Mumbai.
When we arrived four days later, Mathura was weak with malnutrition and we tried to convince her to go to the health post, but she was worried about leaving her two girls behind. While the women stayed at the school, the men made multiple trips to their submerged village salvaging what they could.
When we left her, Mathura was weak and anemic. She wasn't producing enough milk to breastfeed her baby. Her hands and feet were swollen, and her lips looked pale. Like the other women at Classroom No. 9, she was waiting for the flood waters to recede so she could get back home.
As narrated by Uddhab Khadka to Rupa Joshi on returning from a monitoring trip to Kailali district last week. Khadka is senior program assistant with UNICEF Nepal.