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.

Nepal: Three months on

Shovakhar Kandel (R) taking part in aid distribution in Dhading district, helping people affected by leprosy and other disabilities to start rebuilding their lives.
Shovakhar Kandel (R) taking part in aid distribution in Dhading district, helping people affected by leprosy and other disabilities to start rebuilding their lives.

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.

Patients at Anandaban Hospital are being treated in tents to due to earthquake damage. Photo: Dan Court, International Health Partners
Patients at Anandaban Hospital are being treated in tents to due to earthquake damage. Photo: Dan Court, International Health Partners

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.

Destruction caused by the earthquake in Dolakha district, which was near the epicentre of the second major quake on 12 May.
Destruction caused by the earthquake in Dolakha district, which was near the epicentre of the second major quake on 12 May.

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.