Himalayan Medical Foundation Annual Newsletter 2015
On April 25th at 11:56 NST a massive earthquake (magnitude 7.8Mw) struck Nepal. The earthquake epicenter was identified at a distance of 80km NW of Kathmandu and was followed by a second quake measured at 6.6 Mw. Since then over 35 aftershocks have occurred. In Gorkha a district capital near the epicenter of the earthquake, over 90% of its homes and buildings were completely destroyed. Whole mountainside villages have simply disappeared along with its inhabitants by massive landslides triggered by the seismic activity. It will take many months to reach and access the total damage to these remote mountain villages.
In Kathmandu the damage was massive with over 15,000 citizens severely injured and 7,000 fatalities with the number climbing each day. Some earthquake experts predict the total fatality rate for Nepal will exceed 15,000. All of the city’s hospitals are totally filled with critically injured patients and there are simply not enough doctors especially Orthopedic and Trauma Surgeons to handle this number of patients. The sidewalks outside the hospitals are congested with patients laying on stretchers or simply blankets hoping to be admitted. It is estimated that over 80% of these patients will die if not cared for promptly. Most of the injuries are head trauma, fractures, and crushed limb injuries.
The WHO is very concerned that once the monsoon season starts a variety of epidemics are likely to emerge in Kathmandu such as Cholera, Hepatitis, Measles, Meningitis and Typhoid. We may also see an increase in Tuberculosis and the HMF is already researching how to help best to control these diseases. We certainly do not have the capacity to vaccinate the general population but if we have enough funds we will vaccinate as many of the younger monks and nuns as possible.
In Kathmandu, over 600,000 homes and buildings were destroyed or damaged so badly that they are unsafe to be inhabited, leaving over 300,000 Nepalis in Kathmandu homeless at this time. Many Nepalis have fled Kathmandu opting to return to their villages and to a very uncertain future. On a larger scale, more than 25% of the population, or about 8 million Nepalese have been left either homeless or living in structurally unstable homes. Countless UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley were destroyed or severely damaged including century-old buildings like Durbar Square, Patan and Bhaktapur. The world famous Buddhist Stupas at Syambunath and Boudhanath also sustained major damages, but miraculously the Stupas themselves are still standing. Many of Kathmandu’s Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries sustained significant damage to their main shrine halls to such an extent that they are structurally unstable and will sadly have to be leveled and rebuilt. This will involve millions of dollars and at least three years of dedicated work.
The day after the earthquake the HMF along with ADARA, another humanitarian NGO with whom we work closely, sprang into action, setting up Emergency Health Camps in the hardest hit parts of the Kathmandu Valley as well as a few locations 2-3 hours away outside of the valley.
For the next week, these camps will continue to operate providing free medical care and medications to all who need medical attention, moving each day to a new location. There is a team of 16 medically trained Health Professionals, several medical students from Germany and quite a few monks from the Benchen Gompa putting in grueling 16 hour days to help those most in need.
In the meantime, engineers from several countries have been assessing the damage caused by the quake to the various Gompas. The good news is that 6 out of our 7 clinics did not sustain significant damage and will be safe to use. The bad news is that the HMF Benchen Free Clinic, which is our busiest and most important clinic, has sustained significant damage and as of now the engineers are still evaluating if the building is structurally stable and can be repaired or if it needs to be leveled. The building which houses the HMF clinic has three exam rooms, a dental facility, X-ray, laboratory and a Chinese Medicine and acupuncture clinic. If the building is indeed unstable then the HMF will have to quickly adapt and find a suitable building where we can relocate and continue our work.
In the first few days after the earthquake communication with Chhiring Lama, the HMF Country Director was not possible. Now electricity, phone and internet services are back up and we are able to communicate on a daily basis, however Dr. Rabold is planning to travel to Nepal once all fundraising efforts are in place. It is highly likely that a three-fold increase in patient visits will occur in most clinics. We now have an ever-growing list of objectives that will need to be met in order to be of true service as a result of this catastrophe:
The HMF’s immediate goals:
- Purchase significantly more medications and medical supplies.
- Extend clinic hours and increase the days the clinics are open.
- Hire at least two or more Health Assistants and a part time Nepali doctor to assist with the more seriously ill patients and to help with the increased influx of patients.
- Hire a Mental Health Worker who can help us treat patients who are experiencing PTSD, Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia and who can provide counseling and if necessary recommend medications specific to their problem.
- Purchase a used, but well-maintained SUV to transport staff, medications and medical supplies to our more remote clinics. With the need of more medications in each clinic, it is no longer safe to strap boxes of supplies on the back of our motorcycles.
- Continue with ADARA Development to run the very successful “Children’s Health Camps” as well as “the Emergency Health Camps” on an as needed basis.
- Helping the Gompas with water delivery and purification, as well as waste disposal systems especially during the monsoon season.
- Expand our vaccination program to address probable epidemic outbreaks.
- Raise an additional $35,000 this year to handle the aftermath of the earthquake.
The earthquake that struck Nepal has created the greatest single challenge the HMF has faced since its inception. We really need your help. Please give generously. The administrative overhead of the HMF is one of the lowest of any humanitarian organization. Almost all of your donations go directly to Nepal and to the people who so desperately need your help.