VSO and the UK government (DfID) have set up the ‘National Disaster Recovery Coordination Secretariat’ (NDRCS) in Kathmandu. It aims to help rebuild Nepal, following the devastation of two earthquakes (25th April and 12th May 2015) which claimed nearly 9,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands people homeless.
As of 18th January 2016, the NDRCS – led by international development charity, VSO - has been supporting the Government of Nepal by coordinating key information and humanitarian effort from over 100 international NGOs. The NDRCS reduces duplication and ensures that the most vulnerable in the hardest hit areas are reached effectively in a more cohesive manner. Earthquake survivors –many who are currently living in temporary camps - are now receiving more targeted support thanks to this work.
VSO – which has been sending skilled volunteers to Nepal for over 50 years – has also raised over £700,000 to help rebuild the country’s education and health systems. Volunteer medical professionals, from the UK and elsewhere, have been working with local health services to provide basic care for families living inside and outside of the camps. Many children from these camps are also schooled in Temporary Learning Centres, established by VSO.
In terms of healthcare, the districts of Dhading, Nuwakot and Ramechhap have felt the greatest strain since the earthquakes. Through its volunteers, VSO has:
- Formed four emergency medical teams in these districts comprising of a qualified Obstetrician, Paediatrician, Nurse and Anaesthetist.
- Provided training to over 300 local Nurses in midwifery, newborn care and resuscitation, infection control, hypothermia, nutrition and feeding newborns.
- Provided post- earthquake trauma counselling to over 30,000 children.
- Trained nearly 20,000 people in sanitation and hygiene, disaster management / preparedness and first aid.
- Set up a new neonatal care unit in Dhading which has saved the lives of vulnerable babies. Over 400 new mothers and over 500 children have directly benefited from VSO’s health work in the region.
Kanchi Tamang from Dharlang in Dhading District, now lives in the Alchidada camp with her family. She was cooking on an open stove when the earthquake ripped through her house. Her two year old daughter, Laxmi, who was playing nearby, lost her balance and fell into the flames. Her right hand is so severely burned, she’s been left with stumps for fingers:
“At first, I hadn’t realised what had happened to her. When she cried out, all I could do was pick her up and run outside. Moments later, my house collapsed. The aftershocks were so strong, I couldn’t even walk properly. Laxmi was referred to a hospital in Kathmandu. We knew we were far down the waiting list, but after twenty days of waiting, we gave up and returned to the camp.
Living in a tent is harsh. It was Paediatrician, Dr Lynch, who first took a real interest in Laxmi. He discovered her whilst doing his rounds at the camp. He has been treating her ever since. At first, I felt really hopeless when I saw my daughter’s hand, but since Dr Lynch has been looking after her, I feel Laxmi will be ok. We lost everything, but when someone cares, it means the world to us.”
Paediatrician and volunteer, Dr Harry Lynch from London, has been part of the VSO emergency medical team in Dhading since February:
“I was keen to help when I heard about the earthquake. I jumped at the chance to work in a local hospital in Nepal. When I met Laxmi, the sense of inequality between here and the UK was obvious. In normal circumstances she would have received urgent care, but the medical services were overwhelmed and it was several days until she received any, by which time the damage to her hand was substantial.
I’ve also been delivering basic training including neonatal resuscitation. It’s been really rewarding enjoyable and productive - the nurses are so keen to learn. Overall, my biggest challenge is knowing where to focus my work in Dhading, because there's so much to do and only one of me.”
In education, through its volunteers, VSO has also been supporting the worst hit districts of Dhading, Lamjung and Kavre by:
- Establishing nearly 120 Temporary Learning Centres, enabling 17,000 children to continue their education while their schools are being rebuilt. Each centre has toilet facilities.
- Distributing essential learning materials to nearly 8,000 children in 75 schools.
- Training nearly 300 local Teachers.
Chief Executive of VSO, Philip Goodwin, is grateful for the public’s support and commitment from the volunteers:
“Thanks to the generous support of the public and our dedicated skilled volunteers, VSO has helped more than 60,000 adults and children, since Nepal’s devastating earthquake. In the worst hit areas, we’ve strengthened healthcare for newborns and improved emergency midwifery procedures in hospitals and clinics. Our post-earthquake trauma counselling service has also given thousands of children the confidence to go back to school in safe Temporary Learning Centres.
I am proud that VSO is leading the ‘National Disaster Recovery Coordination Secretariat’ which continues to improve the flow of essential data, fundamental to Nepal’s recovery, but there’s still lots of work to be done in future. We must not lose sight of Nepal’s most vulnerable children – girls and children with disabilities – who desperately need an education to escape the cycle of poverty.”