Suniya's story – a life shattered in seconds by the Nepal earthquake

In April 2015, a devastating earthquake tipped a poor country into one in desperate need of aid. Phyllis Costanza, CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation explains how donations of UBS employees and clients have helped.

Suniya and her daughter Sefina

By Phyllis Costanza, CEO UBS Optimus Foundation

"Don't talk to the kids about the earthquakes. It's still too traumatic. We want to get things back to normal for them." This was the first thing I was told when I arrived in Nepal. And it's this desire to get back to normal that struck me most. Until children are thriving again after a disaster, no community can say it has recovered.

I met Suniya and her two-year-old daughter Sefina. They are among the lucky ones having received Optimus-funded support. With her home destroyed and husband overseas earning money for the family, Suniya lives with her five children in a temporary shelter. She said that it's been extremely hard to care for her children, but that the help she has received made her, and many others, feel like there's someone who cares.

And like many others, Suniya and her family have been provided with access to a temporary shelter, hygiene equipment and advice, and the basics for a healthy and dignified life like clean drinking water and private toilet facilities. With most schools damaged or destroyed, her children have been able to return to school at one of the new temporary learning centers that provide safe spaces for children to play and learn.

The situation on the ground has improved, mainly in urban areas. But children like Sefina have had their worlds turned upside down and remain vulnerable to disease and abuse; and they know it. Children interviewed in a recent large-scale study said they were afraid about living in overcrowded unsanitary shelters with strangers, scared of falling ill because of a lack of medical facilities, and anxious about missing school and what the future holds for them.

I was extremely heartened by the improvements I saw as a result of our funding, but many are still in desperate need of help, particularly in remote areas. A swift response to a crisis saves lives, but the stamina to stay the course is also important. And these are the hallmarks of the UBS Optimus Foundation. The TV cameras have moved on but we, together with our partners Save the Children, Room to Read, Possible Health, and We Care Solar, will continue to deliver for children like Sefina, laying the foundations for a healthy and happy future. Thank you for your support.

In one year, donations have helped our partners, Save the Children, We Care Solar and Room to Read to:

  • supply hygiene and shelter kits to 6,000 families, including 24,000 children
  • build latrines and hand washing facilities to help prevent the spread of disease
  • provide light and power in 24 temporary health centers for pregnant women and newborns
  • ensure safe pregnancies and births for 17,000 women through a collaboration with One Heart Worldwide, who are using 100 solar suitcases in the areas hit hardest by the quakes
  • provide psychosocial support and temporary learning centers to 5,000 primary school children

Looking ahead, we're working with partners to provide the basis for long-term recovery and stability.

  • Save the Children will focus on an early childhood development program to improve the quality of teaching for 4,800 children, and engage parents and communities in education.
  • Provide an additional 130 solar suitcases to supply off-grid health clinics with reliable electricity supporting 52,000 women and children.
  • Save the Children and Room to Read are helping the Nepalese government to ensure that earthquake-proof schools are built.
  • Return more than 5,000 primary school children back to well-built schools with a quality, localized literacy curriculum in place, thanks to Room to Read.
  • Provide quality health care to 60,000 people, including 2,500 children, in rural Nepal through Possible Health's integrated group healthcare program.
  • Provide safe and nurturing homes for 6,000 abandoned disabled children in Nepal with local partner Karuna Foundation.
  • Reduce school and family violence towards 15,000 children through a teacher and mental health professional training program run by HealthRight International.