After two weeks supporting relief efforts in Nepal, the Chief Executive of overseas disability charity CBM UK has paid tribute to the astonishing resilience of the Nepalese people. But three months on from the earthquake, hospitals, rehabilitation and mental health services, and Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) continue to face a huge increase in demand.
Kirsty Smith spent two weeks working with CBM’s team of emergency response specialists, Nepalese staff and partner organisations, who have provided emergency relief and medical care to over 12,000 people with injuries or disabilities since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 25th April.
She says: “I met people whose lives will never be the same again, who have experienced unimaginable losses- their stories will stay for me forever. It will be decades before the country is close to full recovery. But I was also inspired by the resilience and courage of the people I met. In spite of the terrible hardship, Nepal is working hard to pick itself up and move forward.”
For many earthquake survivors, such as the 1000-1500 people who suffered serious spinal injuries the recovery process will take years. Kirsty describes meeting one patient at the CBM-supported hospital for spinal injuries, one of the only specialist units in the country.
“Rash Bahadur Gurung was cutting bamboo outside his house when the earthquake started. His baby son was sleeping inside, so he ran inside to rescue the boy but the house collapsed. His son was killed and his back broken. Rash is now learning to use a wheelchair. He will probably spend 6 months in hospital and the future is very uncertain. How will he get to his house in a wheelchair, half way up a mountain? How will he earn his living – he will probably never work as a labourer or farmer again. As for so many people in Nepal, life will never be the same again.”
Thousands of earthquake survivors will also need psychological support. CBM partner KOSHISH, which has been providing community mental health services since 2008, is reporting new cases every day of people of all ages struggling to come to terms with what has happened.
“Schools have just reopened again – but numbers are down as many children are too anxious to leave their parents, too scared to enter the school building or, with the many aftershocks still being experienced, too sleep-deprived to function well. Sadly, many people remain unwilling to seek treatment for any kind of mental health condition – mental health is still widely misunderstood and taboo in Nepal, as in many places.”
With CBM funding, KOSHISH has recruited additional psychologists and counsellors and expect to support 3500 earthquake survivors in the next few months.
Nepalese Disabled People’s Organisations are working closely with the Government and other NGOs to ensure that reconstruction takes into consideration the needs of people with disabilities, including those who have become disabled as a result of the earthquake.
“It was inspiring to see so many people with disabilities playing an active role in planning meetings with the Government and NGOs, co-ordinated through our partner the National Federation of the Disabled – Nepal. People with disabilities continue to face huge challenges and stigma in Nepal, as in so many countries, but through their involvement in rebuilding their communities and country, disabled people can show that they have a vital role to play in building back a better Nepal for everyone.”
CBM, the overseas disability charity, works to transform the lives of people with disabilities, their families and communities, in the poorest communities of the world. The organisation has been working with partners in Nepal for decades to enable disabled people to access healthcare and education, build sustainable livelihoods and play an active role in their community. Find out more at www.cbmuk.org.uk