By Patrick Fuller, IFRC
On 25 April, Nishal Restha was watching television at home in Kathmandu when the earthquake shook his house so violently that the entire two storey structure collapsed on top of him and his family. Somehow the 26 year-old managed to drag himself from the building only to collapse outside. A team of local first-aiders from the Nepal Red Cross Society was among the first people on the scene in Nishal’s community in Sitapaila, a suburb of Kathmandu, and were able to help Nishal regain consciousness and dress his head wounds.
“Since the earthquake, our volunteers have been working here every day,” said Ishwor Balani, President of the local Red Cross Chapter. “Now we have started a health post to treat people’s wounds and have mobilized local doctors to help.”
Sagun Shapit, 24, is one of the doctors treating the queue of people waiting outside the tent which currently functions as the health post. He was at home nearby when the quake struck. Sagun escaped when the roof of the house caved. His brother became trapped and later died under the rubble. He said he is now totally focused on helping the survivors.
“There is nothing we can do for [my brother] now. We just have to concentrate on helping the living,” he said. Sagun was enlisted into the Red Cross by his mother Pushpa, a local volunteer who is also assisting at the health camp. “As I was on holiday, I called my friends from the teaching hospital where I work in Chitwan and they have also come to help here. We are seeing a lot of gashes and head injuries that have become infected. There are also problems like respiratory infections. The weather has changed and many people are sleeping outdoors leaving them very exposed. We are lacking basic things like electrolytes, painkillers and antibiotics for children, but somehow we are managing.”
Ishwor Balani has used his scarce funds to stock the clinic with basic medicines and dressings that he has bought on the local market. He is doing what he can to help the 78 families in the community who have lost their homes and are living under tarpaulins and plastic sheeting, with the few possessions they managed to salvage from the remains of their homes.
“We have relied on donations and what we can buy locally, such as dried foods. It’s not much but we do what we can,” he said with a smile. “Most people here have lost everything and have nowhere else to go.”
Ishwor and his volunteers hand out plastic shopping bags filled with dried noodles, water and biscuits to about 20 families sleeping on the dirt floor of a nearby warehouse.
The space is dark and dank. Samjhan Karki sits cross-legged on a wooden bed; the only bit of furniture she was able to pull from her home. It looks incongruous in the vast warehouse. Her elderly mother sits beside her while her young son sleeps. Karki wept as she explained how she lost her sister in the quake. “We were five in the house but my sister was crushed,” she said. “We tried to pull her out but no rescue teams came here to help us. Now we have no home and no land. I don’t know what we are going to do.”