Under the auspices of International Medical Corps, I’ve just joined a team that will be growing to help meet the needs of Nepal following the recent devastating earthquake. It wasn’t easy to fly in, because the airport has a single main runway and isn’t large enough to park many large aircraft, and there is a great number of relief flights from all around the globe bringing people, equipment, and supplies. Our commercial flight was largely occupied by responders, including an official Japanese search and rescue team, as well as concerned and courageous people of Nepal returning to be with their families. Yesterday our plane originated out of Bangkok, was diverted twice to India, and then returned to Bangkok. We were fortunate to get an early start today and reach Kathmandu.
The scene is somewhat reminiscent of what we encountered five years ago in Haiti, with the main exception being that there is much more of a structured health-care system in Nepal than there was in Haiti, and so the national medical response has been significantly more robust. Still, there are more than 4,000 known victims, and likely many more to be discovered in areas surrounding Kathmandu that are difficult to reach. Furthermore, there will be at least quadruple that number of persons with significant injuries.
Having been to Kathmandu a few times on my way to the majestic Himalaya mountains to trek, including to Everest Base Camp (which was struck by a devastating avalanche caused by the earthquake), it was very sad to see the collapse of buildings – indeed large portions of certain neighborhoods – as well as ancient temples and iconic structures. Soon after leaving the airport, I witnessed resilient citizens sheltering under tents because their homes are destroyed or structurally unstable endure a fierce rainstorm with sheets of hail, causing some streets to flood and emphasizing the risk for spread of infectious disease, such as cholera, in the aftermath of the earthquake.
The local medical community has responded aggressively to this situation, and the health professionals have been working around the clock to tend to patients. The overall community led by volunteers is assessing its capabilities to support shelter, hygiene, provision of safe water and food, and integration of its capabilities with those that are coming in relief. The government is working hard to integrate its efforts with non-governmental agencies, other countries, and generous donors of all necessary aspects of the much needed relief effort.
Please keep the people of Nepal in your thoughts and prayers.
Paul Auerbach, MD, is a professor and chief of emergency medicine who works with the Stanford Emergency Medicine Program for Emergency Response (SEMPER).
Click here for a statement on Nepal from Michele Barry, MD, senior associate dean of global health and director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health (CIGH). Additional updates related to the Stanford relief efforts will be shared on the CIGH website in the coming days and weeks.
Previously: Stanford emergency-response team heads to the Philippines, Treating the injured amid the apocalypse of Haiti, Reports from Stanford medical team in Haiti and Stanford sends medical team to Haiti
Related: Stanford’s SEMPER team provides relief to Typhoon Haiyan survivors and Report from Haiti: 'None of us had ever seen anything like it'
Photo by Domenico