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Nepal earthquake: Our priority is to care for the injured

Emergency
Nepal

Following the devastating earthquake in Nepal on Saturday 25th April, Handicap International’s teams immediately began distributing equipment to two hospitals in Kathmandu on Saturday. A team of emergency specialists left for Nepal on Sunday evening, followed by a second team on Monday to provide care for injured people and help them avoid developing permanent disabilities.

Occupational therapist, Pushpak, assesses the needs of an injured earthquake victim. Nepal.

Occupational therapist, Pushpak, assesses the needs of an injured earthquake victim. Nepal. | © D. Pichard / Handicap International

"Our priority is to care for the injured," explains Hélène Robin, the manager of Handicap International’s emergency response in Nepal. "When a lot of people are injured in an earthquake, they need to be supported as quickly as possible, and provided with follow-up care once they leave hospital, even - and especially - when conditions are very bad."

Hélène Robin continues, "Our experience of earthquakes, particularly in Haiti in 2010, has taught us that it’s really important to stay in contact with the injured after they return home or to live with relatives, and to continue providing them with care so that they don’t develop permanent disabilities."

More than 4.5 million people in Nepal may have been affected by the disaster, over 3,400 people are estimated to have lost their lives, and 6,500 people have been injured, although as many as 50,000 may have been affected. It is impossible to give a precise figure because many rural areas are still difficult to access.

Life changing rehabilitation

On the day the earthquake struck, Handicap International began distributing equipment including wheelchairs, crutches, walking frames and braces, in the capital Kathmandu. The organisation will also ensure victims receive emergency rehabilitation care. Our teams will identify and register the injured (by taking their contact details, noting the type of injuries, etc.) and refer them to existing rehabilitation centres. This will also involve identifying all services able to care for the injured.

In the district of Gorkha, the epicentre of the earthquake, and other sectors hit by the disaster, our mobile teams will also identify the injured and provide them with immediate rehabilitation care and mobility aids.

Several tonnes of equipment has been dispatched to Nepal, including tents for our activities, basic logistical equipment, and equipment for treating and rehabilitating victims, including wheelchairs, exercise mats, walking frames, etc.

Equal access to humanitarian aid

Psychosocial support will be provided over the coming days to help those worst affected talk about their experiences - there have been many after-shocks since Saturday - and to overcome their trauma.

“Our mission is also to ensure equal access to emergency humanitarian aid, particularly for the most vulnerable (the sick, older or disabled people, etc.), by raising the awareness of humanitarian aid operators to ensure they take their needs into account. During emergencies, it’s vital they aren’t forgotten or excluded because they’re the ones who are most at risk,” adds Hélène.

Communications are down in many areas and debris has damaged or blocked roads and motorways, making it more difficult to get aid through to the worst affected areas and populations. “We’re planning to work on opening humanitarian access very quickly. We’ll involve local people in clearing roads and set up a logistical support platform with lorries and shared storage, which we’ll make available to humanitarian aid organisations for transporting and storing equipment in the most isolated areas.”

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