One Year On: Highlighting PQMD Members’ Relief Efforts in Nepal
April 25 of this year marked a taxing one-year anniversary for the Nepalese people. In 2015, a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country. The quake and its aftershocks (including one measured at a magnitude of 7.3 on May 12, 2015) killed more than 9,000 people and injured many thousands more. The tremors destroyed entire villages and historic sites as well as crippling a healthcare system already overburdened before the disaster.
Worldwide relief efforts for Nepal ensued, with 16 PQMD members reporting dispatching some form of medical product, equipment, or service donation within weeks of the first earthquake.
Initial assessments cataloged widespread devastation within the remote mountainous regions of Nepal. Many humanitarian organizations quickly recognized the importance of committing to an extended recovery response within the country.
Nine PQMD members report present involvement in relief efforts one year after the earthquake — and several of these organizations have planned to continue support in the coming years to ensure the future well-being and safety of the Nepalese people.
Within the manifold of relief and recovery strategies deployed by our members in Nepal, there are three overarching themes:
- Continued donations of medical supplies, equipment, and service
Medical supply and/or in-kind donations are a typical first response and a critical need to initiate the recovery process after a disaster strikes. In the case of an extreme catastrophe like Nepal’s earthquake, many rounds of donations are often necessary to revitalize public health.
To this end, through multiple shipments, PQMD members including HPIC, Heart to Heart, IMEC, Map International, Direct Relief, AmeriCares, and World Vision have provided several tons of essential medical supplies and living necessities for distribution by local partners and authorities across affected regions and populations.
Members like HPIC, AmeriCares, International Medical Corps, Direct Relief, and World Vision also have deployed medical teams led by experienced health professionals to earthquake-affected areas, from the capital city of Kathmandu to the most remote rural villages. These efforts, in conjunction with support from local partners, will support longer-term work in restoring the country’s health systems and treat vulnerable populations who lack safe and consistent access to medicine and care.
- Rebuilding healthcare infrastructure, including training of healthcare staff
An earthquake not only disrupts personal lives, but severely impacts public life as well. One serious challenge in the public sphere is damage to healthcare systems — hindered at a time when they are most critically needed by the populations they serve.
A key element in restoring health is the rebuilding of healthcare facilities and other infrastructure that fosters rehabilitation and growth in communities.
World Vision has repaired two medical centers to benefit over 13,000 people and will offer technical assistance for future structures, as well as provide equipment and training for health workers and community volunteers. They have also renovated or constructed 91 water systems to bring safe water to nearly 20,000 people. International Medical Corps has already rebuilt 22 health centers and invested in water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure at the community level. And in the coming months, UNICEF will build 74 tremor-resistant and fully equipped prefabricated health facilities across nine earthquake-affected districts in addition to making improvements to the vaccine supply chain at the district level.
To ensure that these renewed healthcare assets continue to operate at their full potential, Medical Teams International and International Medical Corps have both implemented programs to train thousands of new healthcare workers in Nepal for primary care service.
- Counseling, education, and disaster awareness efforts
Disaster relief efforts are often measured by their initial impact and meeting short-term goals: how they address physical trauma of survivors or damage to a region’s infrastructure, for instance. An organization’s response often considers how to provide meaningful long-term support, whether it be through community building activities or psychosocial support systems to help restore a sense of normalcy to daily life.
The members of PQMD approach these extended commitments in various ways, but each one of the several long-term plans enacted by our members demonstrates the value the organization places on the welfare of Nepal’s people:
AmeriCares mental health experts provided counseling and training to more than 800 healthcare workers in the Kathmandu Valley who, after living through the earthquake and treating survivors, were at risk for stress and trauma. Collaborating with local groups who already work in the region, AmeriCares is also bringing community-based psychosocial health programs to remote and isolated earthquake-affected communities.
UNICEF will support the Ministry of Health to integrate Disaster Risk Reduction into the Nepal Health Sector Strategy implementation plan. UNICEF will facilitate the application of lessons learned from this disaster to help children and their families living in other parts of the country and the Government to be better equipped and prepared for disasters.
Direct Relief is working with the Nepalese government and local partner network in order to prepare for any future calamity, whether it by an earthquake, landslide or flood.
International Medical Corps intends to continue their operations at least through 2017.
World Vision has conducted multi-sectoral programs in Nepal since 2001 and will continue long-term community development work during the recovery period. They have established 35 Child-Friendly Spaces that are giving children a safe place to play, learn, and regain a sense of stability; delivered psychosocial support to nearly 5,000 children coping with anxiety and fear following the disaster; and provided 54 temporary learning centers for children whose schools were destroyed. Future efforts will include training the education community in disaster management, risk reduction, and psychosocial support.
The PQMD membership has factored in a prominent support role for the survivors of Nepal’s earthquake. When our members persevere to assist those in crisis, they affirm both the mission and vision of PQMD.
PQMD wishes to thank all members who provided information for this report on the scope of recovery and regrowth in Nepal.