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.

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.