Last night there was an aftershock at 10 pm which I did not feel. This morning about five while washing up there was a boom and the building shook. For a moment I was wondering whether I should make a move to run down five flights of stairs but the shaking stopped. We decided to quickly move out. From the roof top of the hotel, there were several tents out in the open field.
We visited Shanti Nepal office in the first floor of an unfinished building. A family lived in a tarpaulin tent just right in front of this building.
Next we drove up a mountain for about an hour to visit the health post of Nalang VCD. There seemed to be less destruction in this area and the houses are of mud and sticks and some are plastered over. At times the scene could almost pass as one in the farming areas in Europe. According to Shanti Nepal, 300 households lost their homes and they are distributing materials for shelters and other NGOs are providing food.
Up on the mountain sat the health post. The clinic opens Sunday to Friday and this being Saturday, no clinic was being held. The medical officer in charge met us and we could see that the health post sustained minimal damage. He sees about 35 patients a day, a lot more diarrheal illness since the earthquake. Four babies were delivered last month. Water is carried to the clinic. Typically a health post has about five healthcare workers. It seems that this health post is well supplied with medicines by the MOH and it does not seem to lack supplies or help.
We could not visit Salang VCD because it meant driving up another mountain to do so. Instead we paid a visit to the District Health Officer who was quite swarmed with visitors. We wanted to know if there were VCDs which would need medical supplies but it seemed we had to go through the MOH to get their permission to distribute them. I am glad I am not in the thick of the bureaucracy.
After our visits and need assessments, we concluded that the response to the Nepal earthquake has been rather brisk. The Nepal government and military were quick in evacuating the injured and these people were taken care of somehow. Nepal has quite a good system of assigning a health post for each VCD but despite that the villagers have to travel or climb vast distances to reach a health post. There is an orthopedic hospital which also refused medical help as it has its fill of volunteers as well.
MTI has had plans to set up a long term relationship with Shanti Nepal even before the earthquake happened so the assessments are timely. It has now shifted its goal to recovery effort, aiming to provide support in the repair of health structures, health promotion and supplies of health kits wherever they are needed. We came in as its first medical team, hardly finding any earthquake related medical problems and so there will be no immediate plan for future medical teams. In some ways I was disappointed not to have been able to help in the medical capacity but I am glad to see that Nepal does not have a broken healthcare system. The international response has also been overwhelming which is great to see.
There are still a few VDCs in difficult to reach areas that need our assessment and sometimes we wish we have a helicopter to help transport us.
As always whenever I travel in Asia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, China, or Japan, each of these countries claims me as one of their own. Here in Nepal, I have been asked if I were a Nepali, some think I look more like the mountain people in the north, closer to a Tibetan. I am glad I fit in.