Nepal: Who Would We Be if We Did Not Try?
By Maude Froberg,IDHA 19
Night falls in Kathmandu. We sleep in the streets, in the tents, in the parks. The last strong tremor still present in the body. Local or foreigner, it doesn’t matter. In the darkness, we are equally together and alone. All the senses are amplified, each sound is recorded, every movement in the ground.
The worst thing is the dogs’ howling just before an earthquake. Can you trust the warning or is it just one night-blind pooch that confuses itself into scaring us all?
Two new aftershocks last night confirmed the dogs’ premonition. It is the primary wave before the earthquake that animals feel. We humans are fleeing at the larger secondary wave. Yet only by imagining the unimaginable, we can predict the unpredictable. But when the instinct is up against the mind, usually the instinct wins. We run for our lives. No looking back.
I rejoice to hear the first call of the cuckoo at dawn. It’s a strange feeling to hear the cuckooing here in Kathmandu, as if it were in the wrong place. But as long as he calls, I feel safe. Even the birds seem to have their patterns before danger is approaching. They go silent.
Every day we share analysis on how our relief efforts are working. Every step forward is a motivation for us all. But beyond the graphs of tarpaulins, tents and water delivered, there’s always a deeper story.
High up in the mountains, close to the border with China, the Canadian Red Cross had just opened a basic health care unit at the bottom of a valley. It was just after the first massive earthquake on 25 April.
Tatopani, as the town is called, was badly affected, the lives of people shattered and houses demolished. Each day higher numbers of the injured sought assistance. The doctors and the nurses in continuous service, the interpreters their to ensure the service works. How deep is the pain? Can you bend your leg? They treated more than 50 people every day.
Above the clinic clung houses on the hillsides, surround roads cut off. Some days they were closed. Landslides were numerous and heavy rocks rushed down the slopes. But roads were cleared and opened again for passage. The landslides continued.
Here, just 16 kilometers from the epicenter of the second massive earthquake in Nepal, people struggled against all odds. Mountainsides were literally broken apart and soon the city was covered in dust. As was the Red Cross health care unit, but the staff continued to work. Reaching out with helping hands, treating concussions and crushing injuries, they even managed to deliver a baby.
It comes with our mission that no one wants to give up, but this time nature had other ideas. The following morning we withdraw the staff and a seriously injured patient by helicopter. A crevice in the rock just above the health care unit uncovered a large boulder which could tumble down at any time, putting patients and staff at risk.
It was a painful but necessary decision.
The relief efforts in Nepal have only just begun. Under the most difficult circumstances new plans are drawn up, and equipment and supplies are carried out by Red Cross staff and volunteers in a kind of defiant hope. It is challenging work in extremely difficult circumstances. But who would we be if we did not try?
Maude Froberg is a Communications and Advocacy manager for the International Federation of the Red Cross and red Crescent Societies (IFRC) South Asia and a graduate of the International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA 19). This article was written on May 15, 2015.