Remembering the Personal Side of the Nepal Disaster
When a natural disaster hits, like the earthquake in Nepal, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the numbers and the chaos. I find that sometimes the macro view – total number of deaths, homes destroyed, families split – actually numbs me to the reality. To really get a sense of what these numbers mean you have to hear stories of people who experienced it.
Carol Stevens, a cbm Canada Board member, spent over 20 years in Nepal working as a nurse. She reported to us;
“The last three evenings I’ve been in touch with different Nepali friends by cell phone. It seems surreal to be sitting in my home in Red Deer talking with friends camped out under tarps, dealing with aftershocks and unseasonal rain, wondering what they will do for food and water in the coming days. We are thankful that most of the people we know are safe, and pray that the Christian community will be a comfort to those around them. I talked with one of my closest friends tonight, who (like so many) was at church when the earthquake struck. She is still camping out there 3 days later. As the aftershocks continued over the weekend, she said they encouraged each other with the thought that, ‘If they survived, they’d be together in Kathmandu, and if they didn’t, they’d be together in heaven'”.
Those comments put a face to the catastrophe. People living outside in the rain and cold, not knowing what food they will get, still wondering if they will survive but comforted with the faith that, as they say, in the event that they do not survive “They’d be together in heaven”.
As we mobilize our efforts now in phase one emergency response, we know some things.
We know that those who will be the most affected, the most vulnerable in any emergency, are those with a disability. Many people report how they fled their homes and the buildings they were in. Imagine what happens to those with mobility problems. Many of them did not make it out of the buildings or were injured further.
We know that earthquakes case many disabilities. Injuries from earthquakes are compression injuries which cause spinal cord injuries and crushed limbs. There will be a host of new people with disabilities as a result of these injuries.
We know that emergency responses often do not take into account people with disabilities. Think of pictures you have seen of people lining up for food and water, getting around debris and rubble, and imagine being blind or needing a wheelchair or walker.
We know that after an emergency the health systems are stretched to the limit. Chronic medical needs are often neglected during this time. Many people with disabilities have ongoing health needs and desperately need access to medical staff.
We know these things. These are facts. For each of these facts, there are stories of real people. We don’t have all of the stories yet, but I know we will find them.
Because of these people it is vital for cbm Canada to be working in Nepal. We need to be there now to deliver aid, ensuring aid is given to all people regardless of abilities, and showing other organizations how to deliver their aid to all people. Because of these facts, we need to be there after the emergency phase is over. We need to start planning now for the people with new disabilities. We need to find ways to address the chronic health needs of people with disabilities. We need to ensure that rebuilding is done in such a way that all children can go to school.
As you watch the news and see pictures, imagine having a child in a wheelchair in that environment. Imagine trying to access water, food, space in a tent, and a bathroom. Our job in cbm Canada is important.
Please continue to pray for the people of Nepal.