Physiotherapists in Nepal report that their country is beginning to recover from the devastating earthquake and aftershock that hit in April and May, and that rehabilitation of injured people is a national priority in the rebuilding process.
“We are fine now and trying to bounce back to normal and better than before,” said Nishchal Shakya, President of the Nepal Physiotherapy Association.
Latest figures indicate that 8,789 people died in the earthquakes and that 22,309 were injured. The Nepal government estimates that up to 1,500 injured people have long-term care or rehabilitation needs – 200-300 of them with spinal cord injuries.
As soon as the first earthquake hit, Nepalese physiotherapists were in action in hospital departments around Kathmandu receiving casualties, and others travelled to help. Handicap International physiotherapists and occupational therapists have worked in Nepal since 2001 and its teams were able to support victims from the first few hours after the earthquake in 19 locations.
The Nepal Physiotherapy Association mobilised physiotherapists nationally through its Facebook page. It is about to submit a report to WCPT about the rehabilitation response to the earthquake.
Nishchal Shakya, a lecturer at Kathmandu University School of Medical Sciences, attended the WCPT General Meeting and Congress just days after the disaster. A collection in aid of Handicap International’s relief efforts during the congress raised US$1,756 and exhibitors also donated equipment and supplies.
“It was important for me to go to the congress to get as much support as possible,” said Nishchal. He was at home in Kathmandu with his family when the earthquake began, and he and his father rushed to his four-month old baby’s room to protect her. “We felt we were being thrown room to room, vertically and horizontally, and this terrible sound made you immediately feel very fearful. Your mind doesn’t work properly and you don’t know what to do.”
“I was trying to channel the physiotherapy team on Facebook as the building was trembling,” he said.
Though the effects have been devastating, the earthquake and its aftermath may have raised awareness of the importance of physiotherapy.
“In the aftermath of the April 25th earthquake, the Nepali government appointed a focal department for disability and rehabilitation services within its health care system,” says Nishchal. “This is a breakthrough in the history of the rehabilitation sector in Nepal and the change is expected to further elevate the importance of rehabilitation through coordinated efforts from the government and its stakeholders.”
Handicap International reports that its teams have provided care to 1,530 people with a range of injuries including fractures, spinal injuries and amputations. As well as post-traumatic care for people with head injuries and open wounds, the teams have delivered over 5,900 rehabilitation sessions and distributed 970 mobility aids such as wheelchairs, splints and walking frames.
Handicap International physiotherapist Prakash Niraula said: “The patients we care for are getting better. Our priority is to provide support to everyone who needs it. That’s why we have set up permanent community points. We conduct rehabilitation and psychological support sessions and closely monitor our patients. Every day we identify around ten new people who need rehabilitation care.”