We continue to be so thankful for the response to our emergency appeal for Nepal following the earthquakes that have devastated the country. On the eve of the three month anniversary of the first major earthquake that hit on 25 April, The Leprosy Mission Nepal’s Country leader, Shovakhar Kandel, talks to us about the Leprosy Mission’s response and future plans.
Q: Shovakhar, what has been achieved by TLMN so far?
A: From the day of the quake, we have provided urgent medical and other emergency assistance to people in need. That work is continuing and so far we have given medical help to around 3,600 people. We are still getting referrals from earthquake-affected districts for people who need medical treatment. The Leprosy Mission is providing help at no charge. This makes a huge difference to the very poor people we serve. We have worked in partnership with the Government and with communities, and are very proud to have done this work with the support of generous people all over the world. We have also helped around 1,600 families to build temporary shelters. We have given cash and roofing sheets – and these marginalized, vulnerable people are no longer living in the open but are with their families with some protection from the monsoon rain.
Q: How have local people responded to the global generosity of Leprosy Mission supporters?
A: We’ve made it very clear that money has been given by people all over the world – people who have hearts, who have passion and care for the needy people of Nepal. For that, the people we have helped are very, very thankful. TLMN staff know their local communities, they know the needy people. For the past six years the Government has trusted us to work closely with marginalized communities. We have worked very hard to be wise stewards of the resources given following the earthquake.
Q: What will the next 6-12 months look like?
A: Our goal is to help people move from temporary shelters to permanent, earthquake-resistant homes. We will focus on those who are leprosy-affected and others with disabilities or other factors that cause them to be marginalized. Secondly, our hospital has been damaged. We are coping by making temporary arrangements, but we will start construction work in 2016. This will take two to three years to complete.
Q: What stand-out memories do you have of people helped by TLMN?
A: I have many, of course. One couple from Dhading district – the husband is leprosy-affected and one of his legs was amputated many years ago. He belongs to a self-help group. He was so happy to receive our support after the earthquake. He told me that nobody had helped them so far and he was so grateful. In Kavre district, we went to a village where six leprosy-affected families were living in tents after their homes collapsed. They now have temporary shelters and I know they are recovering well.
Q: How are Leprosy Mission Nepal staff coping?
A: Our staff are tired and still traumatized to some extent. We have provided support and counseling. But they are goal orientated. They are taking their responsibilities very seriously – at the hospital and out in communities. They are dedicated and have never complained. Overall they are coping very well and we are very proud of them. We have also appointed some additional staff to deal with additional demands we are facing.
Q: What would you request prayer support for?
A: Firstly, please pray for leprosy-affected people now having to deal with problems caused by the earthquake. Some have lost family members. Together with people with other disabilities, they need health services and eventually to resume normal life in a safe house. They need us to stand with them, to advocate for them and protect them. Secondly, pray that TLM globally can work together to serve these people. We need prayer for wise decisions, collaboration and more resources. Thirdly, please uphold our staff as they continue to deliver services and cope with their own challenges cause by the quake. Finally, the earthquake damaged many churches in remote districts. Please pray that reconstruction can occur so these church communities can continue to provide much-needed support to leprosy-affected people and other marginalized groups.