By Chad Loftis
As the death toll in Nepal rises after the biggest earthquake in eighty years, medical personnel with SIM and partners are making their way to Kathmandu's Patan hospital to assist with the swelling number of earthquake victims arriving on re-opening roads.
"Patients range from people with cuts to people who tried to commit suicide after seeing their home fall around them or their loved ones die - people who are now in a mess," said Dr. Ted MacKinney of SIM partner organisation, TEAM. "Local medics are tired, but the system is holding up at the moment. A lot of people are working a lot of hours - there is no such thing as clocking in and out. They are really committed."
Dr. MacKinney said the many offers of help he is receiving from doctors abroad are welcome, and feels that the extra manpower will be most useful in the countryside. "If they can go into the countryside with a tent and a blanket and work there - please come."
Meanwhile, the mission hospitals in Lamjung and Tansen - both closer to the epicentre of the quake - remain quiet. This is in spite of reports that villages near Lamjung have been almost totally destroyed by quake damage, landslides, and flooding from breached lakes. "With the roads breached and access difficult, it is hard to accurately assess the aftermath until relief workers can reach those areas," wrote SIM's Dr. Jenny Kim from Lamjung. Their community has "marvelled at being spared" so close to the quake's origin.
In Kathmandu, SIM director Gabriel Jens reports that cremation of bodies, according to traditional Hindu death rites, is becoming a problem. "Without electricity the crematorium cannot work. Now all bodies need to be burned in wood fires so we expect mayhem in the Pashupati Temple."
The lack of electricity also restricts access to water since most buildings in the city rely on electric pumps to get water from ground tanks to rooftops. However, many water tanks had fallen from roofs during the shaking anyway.
As people slowly begin returning to their homes, the extent of the work still to do and grief to be endured is becoming clearer. Already, ninety percent of the Nepali army is employed in rescue and clean up and the death toll now stands at almost 4,000. The stunned nation is requesting more help from the international community. Globally, SIM is mobilising medical personnel as well as counsellors to assist in critical incident debriefing in Kathmandu and elsewhere. Donations to assist hospitals like Patan or those in the countryside can be made here.
Update: The need for doctors and medical personnel in Nepal has been met. Please consider supporting our relief fund instead of going in person.
To join SIM and our partners in bringing relief to Nepali communities destroyed by this earthquake please donate here.