Nepal Interview: 'We Were Able to Respond Immediately'

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Up to 3,600 people have been killed and more than 6,500 injured in Nepal, according to the latest figures released by the United Nation. Several regions have been cut off, and the number of victims continues to rise. Handicap International’s field program director in Nepal, Sarah Blin, who was in the country when the earthquake struck, reports on the situation from Kathmandu:

After the earthquake struck, people ran to open spaces to get away from buildings. The earth was still shaking. I’m familiar with war and famine, but I’ve never lived through an earthquake, nor seen how much it affects people. The first day, we saw a lot dead bodies.

Handicap International has been working in Nepal since 1990. The organization runs rehabilitation services and helps reduce the impact of natural disasters on the poorest and most vulnerable individuals. When the earthquake struck, we were advising the ministry of health on how to prepare for an earthquake, so we were able to respond to people’s needs immediately, using our stocks of emergency equipment. We began by distributing wheelchairs and providing care to people with injuries in two hospitals in Kathmandu.

We’re now focusing our response on logistics. Handicap International has a lot of expertise in meeting the needs of people with disabilities, older people, and other vulnerable populations—anyone who doesn’t always have access to conventional distributions under these sorts of circumstances. This is our main focus in an emergency, apart from providing medical care, orthopedic devices, and wheelchairs to the injured.

The situation in Kathmandu stabilized relatively quickly, but a lot of buildings are still in danger of collapsing. The government is advising people to stay outdoors and not to go home. A lot of people are living in the open-air. They’re still anxious. You can feel the after shocks.

We started getting information from districts around the epicenter of the earthquake the day after the earthquake. Lots of people have been injured, whole villages have been destroyed, roads are cut off, and there’s a serious shortage of vehicles to transport the injured to local hospitals.

Isolated rural areas have been particularly badly hit by the earthquake. The countryside is sparsely populated—it’s difficult to get in touch with people. It complicates the aid effort too. For example, we don’t have a complete picture of what’s going in these areas, as far as we know.

Right now, we don’t have the means to meet everyone’s needs, so it’s vital people support our aid effort.


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