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Hélène Robin, the manager of Handicap International’s emergency response in Nepal, details the organization’s most recent actions and our plans for the days ahead.
“Our first priority is to care for the injured,” says Robin. “When a lot of people are injured in an earthquake, they need to have their health care and other needs met as quickly as possible at hospitals and then they need to be provided with follow-up care when they leave.
"Our experience with earthquakes, particularly in Haiti in 2010, has taught us that it’s really important to stay in contact with the injured after they leave so that they don’t develop permanent disabilities.
“In addition we need to ensure equal access to emergency humanitarian aid, particularly for the most vulnerable (people with disabilities, the elderly, the sick). We’re raising the awareness of other humanitarian organizations so that they take the needs of these populations into account when providing services. During emergencies, it’s vital they aren’t forgotten or excluded because they’re the ones who are most at risk.”
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 working as quickly as we can to open up access to these areas,” says Robin. “We’ll involve local people in clearing roads and provide trucks, storage, and logistics support to help other organizations deliver aid to the most isolated areas.”
More than 4.5 million people in Nepal may have been affected by the disaster, and more than 3,700 people are estimated to have lost their lives. An additional 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.
On the day the earthquake struck, Handicap International began distributing equipment including wheelchairs, crutches, walking frames, and leg braces in the capital of Kathmandu. Staff continue to provide care and psychological support to an increasing number of injured patients at hospitals in Kathmandu.
Several tons of equipment dispatched from France will soon land in Nepal, including tents, logistical equipment, and equipment for treating and rehabilitating the injured.
In the district of Gorkha, the epicenter of the earthquake, and other sectors hit by the disaster, mobile teams will identify the injured and provide them with immediate rehabilitation care and mobility aids.