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Day 2: “We have heard tales of miraculous survival” following Nepal earthquake

Paul Auerbach is in Nepal to aid victims of the recent earthquake and has been sending periodic reports.

Today in Kathmandu was quite different from yesterday. The city has certainly sprung back remarkably. Although its citizens face enormous challenges, the streets were nearly full with traffic, rubble was actively being cleared from obstructing piles, and people were walking and resuming commerce. There are an estimated 16 camps within the boundaries of Kathmandu, where people are either forced to seek housing or prefer to remain, certainly for sleeping at night, until homes can be replaced or cleared with respect to structural integrity. The camps are orderly and treated with dignity by the occupants and passers-by. We visited one this afternoon to perform a clinic, examining patients who wished to see a physician. Because the hospitals in Kathmandu received the injured soon after the earthquake, we mostly served persons with “routine” medical ailments. They were kind to us and appreciated the attention.

International Medical Corps continues to grow its staff and operations to meet the evolving situation. Side by side with other entities that have responded, including large national emergency response teams, there will be increasing focus on the communities outside Kathmandu, where there is sparse medical care and distances to hospitals mean walks of hours. Some of these will need to be approached by helicopter because of distances, mud- and rockslides caused by the earthquakes that have obstructed roadways, and calls for urgent assistance. It’s anticipated that some teams may need to trek for days to reach certain villages. Much of the coming days’ and weeks’ activities will be intended to avoid the spread of infectious diseases.

We have heard tales of miraculous survival, sadly posed against the grief of many lost family members and friends. Driving through the city past enormous mounds of rubble that last week were sacred temples and monuments, it is striking to think about how much there is to be done worldwide to prepare for cataclysmic natural events. There will be many lessons learned from this catastrophe, and we should take them to heart. One of them is how much better is a world focused on mutual aid and skillful compassion than upon dominance and conflict.

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: Day 1: Arriving in Nepal to aid earthquake victims

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