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Red Cross Medical Teams Help in Nepal

  • Nepal Earthquake
    A Canadian Red Cross Emergency Response Unit arrives in the village of Dhunche to set up a field hospital. Aapo Huhta/IFRC
  • Nepal Earthquake
    A man’s injured leg is treated by a doctor from the Japanese Red Cross. Atsuhiko Hata/Japanese Red Cross Society.
I’m going to stay as long as I am needed.

Red Cross workers from all over the world, including American Red Cross disaster specialists, are helping in Nepal after the devastating April 25 earthquake.

The earthquake claimed the lives of more than 7,700 people. Thousands more are injured. Medical facilities are destroyed or damaged and people are struggling to get medical care. Red Cross societies are helping. Here are some accounts of how:

By Minna Passi, Finnish Red Cross, Noriko Takasaki, Japanese Red Cross Society and Merlijn Stoffels, Netherlands Red Cross

In Dhunche, the hospital is destroyed and patients are in tents outside. More patients are expected from remote villages in the area. The Canadian Red Cross, in cooperation with the Philippine Red Cross and Hong Kong Red Cross, set up a field hospital to Dhunche. The road to the town is blocked so the equipment is carried in by helicopters from Kathmandu. Helicopters bring in supplies and staff, and take out the injured and the dead.

“I don’t know yet how long I’m going to be working here, but I’m going to stay as long as I am needed,” says Team-leader Hossam Elsharkawi who is specialized in high altitude and wilderness medicine. ‘’We have to be quick, otherwise it can be too late for the victims of the earthquake.” He is worried about the situation of the wounded in the villages around Dhunche. So far contact has been non-existent, but they try to reach them with helicopters.

A woman visits the clinic with a foot infection. She had to walk for days to reach Dhunche. Because of landslides and cracks in the road, the only way to reach it was by foot. ‘’For this kind of problem, intensive treatment is needed,” says Hossam. “Without it she would most likely lose a limb or even die.”

In Chautara, the situation is similar. The army has evacuated many injured people in the area. Some of them are strong enough to walk from the helicopter, but most are carried out. The hospital is so badly damaged that treatment is taking place in tents outside. Here, a medical team from the Norwegian Red Cross has erected a field hospital. Their journey was delayed by a landslide that blocked the road, but they are now set up and treating patients as they arrive from the more remote regions of the country.

The town of Melamchi was severely affected by the earthquake. Thousands lost loved ones and everything they owned. There is no road access to villages near the town and the tough terrain means Red Cross volunteers are carrying casualties on foot to the medical center.

The clinic, which has been operating non-stop since the earthquake, has only two doctors. More than 2,000 patients have been treated in only a few days. The injured are still arriving from the villages with wounds left untreated for days, meaning treatment is more difficult and infection common.

Kesab Kahdka rests under a blanket outside the clinic. He was injured when a boulder fell onto his leg and was treated by a Japanese Red Cross Society medical team who arrived with vital supplies and set up a health care unit to support the local doctors and nurses.

Some desperate survivors have tried to walk to find help. On Wednesday, villagers carried a badly injured man to the medical tents. It’s a seven-hour journey in normal conditions – across ruins and carrying a patient, even longer.

Sachiko Yano, a Japanese Red Cross Society nurse said that more people were beginning to arrive from further afield. “Like Keshab, people from more mountainous areas are just arriving now with a help of their families, to receive much-needed medical attention,” she said. “As it has already been a few days, many are arriving with open wounds and need urgent medical attention.”

HOW TO HELP

GIVE: To help people affected by disasters big and small, visit Redcross.org or contact your local American Red Cross chapter.

MAP: To help with critical mapping efforts, visit http://tasks.hotosm.org. No experience is needed, just a computer and internet connection.

SHARE: Spread the word on relief efforts and ways to help online. Find and share information on social channels, including the global Red Cross Twitter account and American Red Cross Facebook and Twitter posts.

HELP FINDING LOVES ONES

For help locating family members or to register yourself as safe in Nepal, visit www.familylinks.icrc.org. People can also contact the U.S. State Department for information on U.S citizens living or traveling in Nepal.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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