All the Israeli citizens in Nepal have now been accounted for, but emergency response personnel are staying on in the country to assist Nepalese, particularly in remote regions, in the long, difficult process of recovery.
The Israeli army officially closed its field hospital in Kathmandu on Sunday, the largest such structure ever put up by the IDF. During the 10 days it was open, 1,600 patients were treated, including 85 operations performed. But there is much left to be done in outlying areas.
In partnership with Siddi Vinayak Hospital in Kathmandu, and the Ministry of Health and Population, and with the help of Nepali porters, IsraAID’s medical team set out for the mountain villages in northeastern Nepal, along with a team of Nepali doctors and nurses from Kathmandu. After a seven-hour drive from Kathmandu and a three-hour walk, the team arrived in Tar village and in less than an hour set up their mobile clinic.
The earthquake caused many rockslides, making the narrow tracks to these small villages very difficult to reach, and many have yet to receive any kind of assistance. In Tar, where 120 residents lost their lives and 95% of the houses collapsed, the IsraAID team was the first medical team to arrive, and treated 122 people including six severe orthopedic cases.
The results of the delay in medical assistance were immediately visible. As soon as word got out about the clinic, people began arriving in distressing condition. They came with injuries wrapped in dirty rags, limbs frozen at strange angles, infections that had festered beyond recognition. Elderly people hobbled in on crutches made from sticks, according to a Jerusalem Post reporter.
“A lot of these injuries are secondary injuries,” said Micky Noam Alon, an IsraAID project coordinator. “They are caused by lack of sanitation, especially now that they’re not even living in houses, but in tents.”
Some of the stories are heartrending. Besides the physical suffering, there are the tragedies of parents who have lost children and children orphaned by the terrible earthquake.
“We see things here that we’ve never seen before,” said Dr. Michael Alkan, an infectious disease internist who teaches in the School for International Health at Ben Gurion University.
“We see [bone] breaks that are eight days old, old infections that no one has looked at before. You’d never see that in Israel. But what we see the most is post-trauma. There was one 70-year old woman who buried her daughter. We were trying to treat her and she was just sobbing over and over, ‘What do I have to live for?’ The pain, it’s nothing. But the sorrow is overwhelming.”
IsraAID plans to remain in Nepal for at least a year, focusing on trauma therapy, using art, drama, and other methods to help children deal with the emotional side of this disaster.