An AmeriCares team arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, just 48 hours after the April 25 earthquake. AmeriCares teams have been holding mobile health clinics for survivors and traveling to rural areas with stocks of medicine and supplies, to treat survivors and assess needs at hospitals and clinics.
As AmeriCares teams travel to earthquake-affected communities in Nepal, the general mood among survivors is one of uncertainty. The occasional aftershocks are not very strong, but with the weakened condition of structures, any disturbance could be dangerous. Perhaps more significantly, aftershocks are re-traumatizing survivors who are still dealing with the anxiety and stress of the earthquake. When aftershocks occur they evoke strong reactions—we have seen people run outside after a tremor that is barely perceptible to us.
During the mobile clinics we are conducting, most of the patients we see are farmers, shop owners, tourist guides or daily wage laborers who work for hire and their children – lots of children. AmeriCares doctors are treating a range of medical needs – some as a result of the earthquake, others are the more usual illnesses exacerbated by recent events or living in the cold and damp under tarps in the days since.
Some survivors are seeking care for injuries related to the earthquake, typically minor limb and back injuries. Our team has also seen patients with head and eye injuries, which can be more serious. More and more we are seeing injuries from clean-up after the earthquake, which are similar to the original earthquake injuries—and almost all require tetanus vaccine, which has been in very short supply.
Specifically, survivors are suffering from respiratory conditions such as cough, cold, sore throats, tonsillitis, ear infections, asthma and more – many from dust in the air and warming themselves over smoky fires indoors or outside.
Also, our doctors are treating patients with diarrhea and rashes caused by contaminated water and poor sanitation, and stomach pain and loss of appetite due to stress and anxiety.
AmeriCares doctors and volunteer local assistants are giving patients antibiotics, antacids, antihistamines, oral rehydration salts and pain relievers as well as vitally needed tetanus vaccine to prevent tetanus after penetrating injuries. They have provided some anti-anxiety medicine as well. Our teams have also met patients who lost their chronic disease medicine in the disaster, leaving them at risk of uncontrolled diabetes or hypertension.
Doctors and staff at functioning health facilities are experiencing shortages of medicine and supplies and are requesting the same kind or primary care medications listed above, as well as wound dressings for injuries. Hospitals, clinics and earthquake responders are all concerned about the risk of cholera because of compromised access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The government is already promoting a cholera prevention media campaign. Water purification and improved hygiene and sanitation commodities are critically needed.