The Nepal earthquake: one year on

Khrishna

April 25 will be a difficult day for the people of Nepal – the first anniversary of the earthquake that claimed more than 9,000 lives and left many more people injured, homeless and without livelihoods.

For people with leprosy, who are often living with the additional challenges of disability and extreme poverty, the earthquake was a particularly heavy blow. But thanks to your generosity and the amazing response to our emergency appeal, as well as this year’s Rebuild Nepal appeal, they now have hope for the future.

In the months following the earthquake, your gifts provided funds and materials to build temporary shelters – a huge relief for those who were forced to live under tarpaulin or even in the open air after losing their homes. You also helped provide emergency treatment at Anandaban Hospital that saved lives and helped people on their road to recovery with surgery, physiotherapy and counselling.

And now, thanks to your ongoing care and compassion, people like Krishna, pictured above with his two sons in front of the ruins of their home, will be able to start moving in to newly built homes after months of living in cold, cramped shelters.

“It would have been impossible for me in this life to build another house for my family,” Krishna said. “I am so grateful to everyone who has helped. I will never forget the care that I got from the staff at The Leprosy Mission. My family will once again have a roof over their heads.”

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A typical temporary shelter in Nepal

Your help over the past year has meant so much to so many people. Here are just a few of their stories.

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Dhurba

Dhurba’s house collapsed during the earthquake – and his wheelchair was crushed by the rubble. After receiving a grant to help he and his family purchase materials to build a temporary shelter, Dhurba was also given a brand new wheelchair.

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Dev (right)

Dev lost her home and only source of income in the earthquake – the goats that were her livelihood were killed by falling buildings. She desperately need a fresh start – she is disabled by leprosy and also primary carer for her husband, who is housebound. Thanks to a grant of 15,000 rupees, she has bought another goat and built a temporary shelter.

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Ganesh, Ganga and their family

Ganesh and his wife Ganga have five children. Their whole village was destroyed in the earthquake. Ganesh was out working in the fields at the time and rushed home, thankfully finding that the rest of the family had been outside when the earthquake hit and were unharmed.

Ganesh has been receiving help from The Leprosy Mission from a long time – ever since he was first diagnosed with the disease at the age of ten. He  needs to wear special footwear and is supplied with shoes by Anandaban Hospital, making sure that his feet are protected from further injury. The family received a grant to build a temporary shelter last year. Now, thanks to your generosity, they will be able to look forward to a new permanent home.

You can still make a difference to people affected by the 2015 earthquakes with a gift to our Rebuild Nepal appeal. Your gifts really are helping to transform lives and bring new hope to Nepal.

Stories from Nepal: Pavitra

The final installment of Partnership Manager Louise Timmins’s blogs from Nepal, where she visited Anandaban Hospital last month, meeting some of the people whose lives have been devastated by the earthquakes. Towards the end of her visit she met Pavitra, who benefited from a new house thanks to The Leprosy Mission last year.

Pavitra at the Self Care Unit at Anandaban Hospital.
Pavitra at the Self Care Unit at Anandaban Hospital.

The Self Care Unit at Anandaban Hospital is where patients affected by leprosy learn how to soak hands and feet which have lost feeling because of disease, remove dead skin and moisturise with oil. This is so important because soaked, supple skin is less likely to crack and injure. Injuries can turn in to horrendous ulcers which take months to heal. Sadly in some cases, the ulcers become so infected that amputation is the only option.

As I walked down the 360 steps from the hospital to the Self Care Unit, I could see eight or nine patients sitting and chatting together. It is fantastic that they can share experiences and encourage one another here. Only someone who has experienced leprosy first hand can really understand the horrors of the disease.

Pavitra looks on as Self Care Unit manager Kassi tends to her feet.
Pavitra looks on as Self Care Unit manager Kassi tends to her feet.

Pavitra had just soaked her feet and was having the dead skin removed by Kassi, who is also affected by leprosy and manages the Self Care Unit. We started chatting and Pavitra told me her story:

“I was sixteen when I first noticed I was losing feeling in my hands,” she said. “It was very strange and I didn’t understand what was happening. I was scared so I just ignored it and tried to hide what was happening from my family and friends.

“Luckily my parents found a husband for me and we got married. I kept the secret of my illness from my husband, but when we had a son a year later, I couldn’t hide it anymore. By this point my hands were almost useless; my fingers wouldn’t straighten and I didn’t feel it when my son grasped them. I kept burning myself when preparing meals. It was terrible. I felt so sad all the time.

“My husband was so angry – he realised I had leprosy. He threw me and our son out of the house. I was disgraced – I am from a low caste, and with leprosy too I knew I didn’t have much of a future to look forward to.

“Thankfully my mother took us in. I’m an only child and she was so good to me.

“I now live with my son and his family – I have five grandchildren so it’s a busy household. My son also ran a tailoring business from the house until recently.”

Despite the support of her family, Pavitra has faced new challenges following the earthquake at the end of April.

“When the earthquake came we lost everything,” she told me. “Thankfully no-one apart from my daughter-in-law was inside the house – she jumped out of the upstairs window to safety. Our home is gone and our income from my son’s business has gone. We are desperate.

“I feel very sad about losing my home; it was only built by The Leprosy Mission last year. I was so excited when we moved in. I’d never had a toilet in 57 years – it was wonderful! Now I wonder what will happen to us.

“We’re living in a tent; it’s really hard to manage in such a small space, especially when it’s raining.

“I am thankful for The Leprosy Mission; they treat me like family when I am here. It’s almost like coming home. I hope that God will provide me with a house for my family again. I don’t know how we will manage otherwise.”

The Leprosy Mission Nepal is currently looking at plans to start rebuilding homes destroyed by the earthquake early next year. We value your prayers as we do so and hope we will be able to partner with other organisations in Nepal to transform the desperate situations of people like Pavitra.

Stories from Nepal: Mahendra

Partnership Manager Louise Timmins blogs from Nepal, where she has been visiting Anandaban Hospital and meeting some of the people whose lives have been devastated by the earthquakes.

10 July 2015

Today is a very special day for me. It’s exactly 4 years ago that I first met my beautiful daughter Marika at a small orphanage near Kathmandu! Being here on this anniversary is lovely.

I really wanted to see how all the children there were managing after the earthquake so Shovakhar and I drove the short distance through the city and out in to the countryside to the orphanage. As we passed the women in brightly coloured saris bent over picking rice in the paddy fields, all the memories came back of this exciting journey 4 years ago.

The children were just coming back from school as I arrived. Amazingly I could recognise many of the little faces – they were all about 16 months old when I was last here, the same age as Marika. They were all so happy to see a visitor ‘Aunty, Aunty!’ they shouted, and it was a fight to see how many children could fit on my lap!

The earthquake had left huge cracks in the building, so the children are sleeping in temporary shelters made from tin sheets. It’s really hot inside and very uncomfortable. I kept thinking how hard it would be to move around a shelter in this heat if you had leprosy.

A child at Anandaban Hospital.
A child at Anandaban Hospital.

I have a real heart for orphans and children in need. In Nepal, a high number of children contract leprosy. The Leprosy Mission Nepal is doing an amazing job finding and treating these children so that they don’t develop disability and can go on to lead a normal life.

Sometimes though, children in remote regions don’t get the medicine they need in time to stop terrible disability caused by leprosy.

Mahendra at Anandaban Hospital
Mahendra at Anandaban Hospital

Mahendra is 16 years old and is one such young person. He has one leg, serious ulceration and badly deformed hands. He cannot walk and uses a wheelchair to move around in the hospital ward at Anandaban. He sat with me and shared his story:

“When I was 6 I saw white patches on my arms. I poked them but I couldn’t feel it; it was very strange to me. I didn’t understand what was happening.  I ignored it for a couple of years, but when I couldn’t straighten my fingers, my family took to a doctor and he said I had leprosy. I didn’t take any medicine, I don’t know why now.

“Slowly I lost all feeling in my hands, and my fingers started to bend further and further in to my palms- I couldn’t straighten them at all. I couldn’t hold a pen, or catch a ball and it was very hard to find friends. My feet were the same, I couldn’t feel a thing. I kept cutting them and then the wound would turn in to a big ulcer.

“Finally I came to Anandaban and have taken medicine to cure me for the last two years. I can’t get my fingers back though; it’s too late for that. My foot ulcers got so bad that I had my left leg amputated 3 months ago. I’ve been here for 14 weeks now.

“My family never come to visit me, that makes me sad. I really miss them. When I am better I would like to open a small shop. That would make my family proud.

“I am so happy that I came to this hospital. Everyone is so kind and I have been treated well.”

Mahendra is going to be measured for a prosthetic limb next week. They take six weeks to make and by the time it is ready, his wound will have healed. It’s going to take a long time and lots of physiotherapy before Mahendra will be able to walk again.

In the meantime, a teacher comes to the hospital twice a week to help Mahendra with his studies. He’s also made plenty of friends on the ward who sit and play games with him.

Mahendra has a huge smile and I’m convinced he has the willpower to get out of his wheelchair and open his shop.