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MSF Response to Nepal Earthquake

Evacuating the seriously injured from remote villages

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“I was lucky the doctors found me, I was in terrible pain, I thought I would die,” said 26-year-old Maila Gurung. “Most of the nearby health posts were destroyed, the only one I could go to was an hour’s walk, but it only offers basic services, and it was closed in the immediate aftermath of the second quake. And, besides, I couldn’t walk.”

Maila Gurung’s village in Diol, Gorkha district is high up in the mountains, isolated from most basic amenities. In fact, Maila broke his leg when, together with others, he was carrying electric poles up the mountain in an effort to convince the electricity company to supply them with electricity, as their lives would then be easier. But he was unlucky and an electric pole fell on him, fracturing his leg. Then the earthquake struck and prevented him from going to hospital. His family was worried, the village was devastated: Maila was not carrying the electric poles for his own good; he was doing it for the good of everyone, so that the community could have electricity. Therefore everyone wished him well.

Lying in a bed at Arughat hospital, run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Maila listened to MSF nurse, Aloise Vimard, explaining what he should do when he got home. With the cast on, he could now walk, being careful not to put too much weight on the fractured leg. Maila will have the cast for five weeks during which MSF teams that conduct mobile clinics in the nearby villages will follow up on his recovery. And eventually remove the cast.

“I will take care of him, I will cook for him and work in the fields so that he can have a rest and heal,” said Maili Gurung, Maila’s wife. Their little daughter, Ranjana, innocently plays with her father’s phone beside the examination bed. They had accompanied Maila and stayed with him during his admission. They too were happy he was doing well and excited to get back home.

When the helicopter touched down in Diol village, the community was waiting; excitedly clearing the ground for landing and directing the pilot. They were there to welcome back home one of their own. Dr Hani Khalifa, the MSF medical coordinator reminded Maila and his family what he needed to do during the five weeks he would have the cast on, “you must take care of your leg, ensure that the cast does not get wet, and you must eat and eat well.”

Seeing how far and isolated this village was, one cannot help but wonder just how MSF teams reached there, and what would have happened to Maila had they not come. The teams were there to conduct assessments after the earthquake of 25 April. Diol is in Gorkha district, which was the epicentre the earthquake. “When we conduct assessments and mobile clinics, we treat those that can be treated on the spot, and evacuate those that with serious injuries, whether or not their injuries are related to the earthquake,” said Dr Khalifa.