Nepal earthquakes: One year on
One year ago today, the first of two massive earthquakes tore through Nepal. Their wake of devastation claimed nearly 9,000 lives and left hundred of thousands of people homeless.
The generous response to our emergency appeal, to the tune of £700,000, made a huge difference to people in dire need. But a year on, Nepal is still in a bad way.
Many thousands of earthquake survivors are still living in temporary camps. Health services and other infrastructure will need ongoing support to recover and be able to support the rebuilding of a nation.
Volunteer medical professionals, from the UK and elsewhere, have been working with local health services to provide basic care for families living inside and outside of the survivor camps. Many children from these camps are also schooled in temporary learning centres, established by VSO since their schools were reduced to rubble.
"When someone cares, it means the world to us" - Laxmi's story
Two-year-old Laxmi Tamang on her brothers shoulders showing burned hand | VSO
Just moments before the earthquake ripped through their house, two-year-old Laxmi Tamang was happily playing, under the watchful gaze of her mother Kanchi, who was cooking on an open stove nearby.
Laxmi lost her balance and fell straight into the flames. Her right hand is so severely burned she's been left with stumps for fingers:
“At first, I hadn’t realised what had happened to Laxmi. When she cried out, all I could do was pick her up and run outside. Moments later, my house collapsed. The aftershocks were so strong, I couldn’t even walk properly.
"Laxmi was referred to a hospital in Kathmandu. We knew we were far down the waiting list, but after twenty days of waiting, we gave up and returned to the camp."
The contribution of medical volunteers
Paediatrician and VSO volunteer Dr Harry Lynch, from London, is part of our emergency medical team in Dhading - where the Alchidada camp in which he eventually came across little Laxmi is situated:
“I was keen to help when I heard about the earthquake. I jumped at the chance to work in a local hospital in Nepal. When I met Laxmi, the sense of inequality between here and the UK was obvious. In normal circumstances she would have received urgent care, but the medical services were overwhelmed and it was several days until she received any, by which time the damage to her hand was substantial."
Dr Lynch began treating Laxmi right away. The care has made a real difference, not only to her but to her mother Tamchi:
"At first, I felt really hopeless when I saw my daughter’s hand, but since Dr Lynch has been looking after her, I feel Laxmi will be ok. We lost everything, but when someone cares, it means the world to us.”
What we've achieved together
Through its volunteers, VSO has:
- Formed four emergency medical teams of volunteers like Dr Lynch in the worst hit districts comprising of a qualified obstetrician, paediatrician, nurse and anaesthetist
- Provided training to over 300 local nurses in midwifery, newborn care and resuscitation, infection control, hypothermia, nutrition and feeding newborns
- Provided post-earthquake trauma counselling to over 30,000 children
- Trained nearly 20,000 people in sanitation and hygiene, disaster management / preparedness and first aid
- Set up a new neonatal care unit in Dhading which has saved the lives of vulnerable babies. Over 400 new mothers and over 500 children have directly benefited from VSO’s health work in the region
With a focus on the worst-hit districts, VSO has:
- Established nearly 120 temporary learning centres, enabling 17,000 children to continue their education while their schools are being rebuilt. Each centre has toilet facilities
- Distributed essential learning materials to nearly 8,000 children in 75 schools
- Trained nearly 300 local teachers
More work to be done
Children learn in a temporary classroom in earthquake-stricken Nepal
Before the earthquakes hit, VSO had been working in Nepal for over 50 years working on the country's huge health and education challenges.
It remains one of the world's poorest nations, and whilst we're proud of our crisis efforts, we must not lose sight of Nepal's vulnerable children, incuding girls and those with disabilities. Not only have they experienced the trauma of an earthquake, but will now grow up in a country whose already underdeveloped education services have taken a massive hit. Unless we do something.
Will you help the people of Nepal rebuild?
You can make a difference to the vulnerable chidren and adults of Nepal, many of whom are still homeless, by contributing whatever you can afford to our Nepal Appeal.
Your donations will help us support the people of Nepal to build back better what they've lost and strengthen education for thousands of children.
Stories about how we're still making a difference in Nepal have appeared in the pages of the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Thomson Reuters. Photograph of children in temporary classroom used with kind permission of VSO volunteer Judith Hill. All other images ©VSO/Suraj Shakya