(Video) Nepal’s poor hardest hit by earthquake
The Nepal Earthquake has caused widespread devastation with death tolls rising to 8,500 and hundreds having to deal with debilitating spinal injury. Such injuries provide an additional set of challenges to people who are trying to get their lives back on track, and it’s often the poor who are the hardest hit.
So how is Nepal responding to this issue? Livability interviewed the Nepali journalist and activist Kanak Mani Dixit (below), who is the Founding Chair of the Spinal Injury and Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) – the only purpose built spinal injury rehab centre in Nepal. Livability International (run by Livability) is a partner to the Centre and provides advice and funding for its work.
Speaking in a video interview and also to staff at Livability’s central office in London, Kanak spoke about the challenges that spinal injury sufferers face, not only now but in the long-term process of rehabilitation and reintegration into society. These problems have also been emphasised in this article from the BBC on Livability’s work in Nepal.
Kanak told a story which encapsulates the struggle many now face following the earthquake: ‘One patient had lost one child and her husband,’ he said, ‘she had a spinal injury and her other daughter had a broken hip. They also lost more family and livestock. Who’s going to tend to the field when it’s time to do the rice planting? That is the challenge we face beyond the initial rehab.’
Kanak emphasised that it was not just the initial injuries which were problematic but the overall loss of homes, ability to work and independence which was most difficult.; as he put it: ‘The problem in Nepal is that we’ve lost livelihoods.’
The SIRC specialises in dealing with these long-term problems and is the first and only purpose built centre in the country which deals with spinal injury rehabilitation. The staff are trained to provide comprehensive rehabilitation, which includes therapy, nursing care and counselling. They also support people become financially independent and get back into the community through the provision of vocational and practical skills training. In a country that is not well adapted in terms of infrastructure, these challenges are real and need to be confronted.
Despite the many problems ahead of them, the SIRC was as well prepared as they could have been. ‘We were personally very careful about everything from the building having to be earthquake resistant to the idea that when the earthquake comes it’s the spinally injured that will need the long term care,’ said Kanak.
Kanak said that Livability were central to the establishing of the Centre in 2002 and that the knowledge provided by Stephen and Maggie Muldoon, who lead Livability International, was invaluable in the Centre’s inception and has continued to be important in crisis such as these.
Read more about Livability’s work in Nepal