Ongoing Health Concerns After Earthquake in Nepal

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nearly 20 months after the devastating earthquake in Nepal, the global effort to reconstruct the Himalayan nation and rehabilitate the two million people impacted by it has achieved few of its promised goals.

There was great resolve to provide aid immediately after the massive earthquake hit the country, killing 10,000 people and leaving an estimated two million affected. A month after the earthquake in Nepal, global donors met in Kathmandu to plan reconstruction. The objective was to “build back better”, and donors committed $4.4 billion to the restoration, led by Europe, the U.S., India and China. But as the months rolled on little of that money found its way into the country, even as political uncertainty paralyzed the Nepalese government’s own efforts. Amid the gridlock, two million Nepalis have endured monsoons and a harsh winter in temporary shelters made of sheets.

While most of the affected children did receive some form of help, it was mostly blankets or food. What they needed more was attention to their physical and mental health and safe structures that would enable them to resume schooling.

An April 2016 report by UNICEF on the ongoing challenges in Nepal showed that 30 percent of children had difficulty accessing medicines, 27 percent were suffering diarrhea and 32 percent had respiratory problems. Almost a quarter of children had trouble sleeping for fear of another earthquake.

In light of the disaster, a few nonprofits have swung into action. GeoHazards International specializes in mitigation and preparation before disasters and helped create the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET). Its goal is to urge foreign aid organizations to fund buildings that are designed and constructed according to modern codes. This will minimize fatalities following the next major earthquake.

Solidar Suisse provided emergency aid in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake. It subsequently shifted its efforts to reconstruction of damaged buildings and ensuring a consistent water supply, focusing on the isolated Sindhupalchowk district. Solidar is also training artisans and construction workers in good construction practice while earthquake-proofing new buildings.

Another nonprofit, Possible Health, signed a 10-year agreement with local government partners in Nepal to rebuild the healthcare system in Dolakha District, where more than 85 percent of healthcare facilities were damaged or destroyed. It has begun rebuilding 21 health clinics and taken over the management of the main hospital, which serves 250 patients a day.

These efforts are scattered across the troubled nation because there is no overarching plan to consolidate reconstruction and post-earthquake care. In the absence of such a plan, the fear is that even if aid money eventually arrives, it will be squandered away.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr

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Mallika Khanna

Mallika lives in Hartford, CT. She is originally from Delhi, India. Her academic interests include English literature and International Studies. Mallika is working on being tri-lingual!

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