Doctors Without Borders: Nepal Earthquake Emergency Response

A team from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been redeployed to the newly effected areas and is involved in life saving interventions after a second earthquake today hit Nepal yesterday. The epicentre of the quake is 80km east of Kathmandu, in Dolakha district and we are relieved to report that all 120 of Doctors Without Borders staff are safe and have been accounted for.

In Nepal’s capital Kathmandu the quake resulted in additional buildings collapsing and the airport being closed again. With roads again blocked by debris, an MSF emergency team was dispatched to the location of the epicentre via helicopter. A second team was dispatched later in the day.

Click here for more MSF updates on the emergency response to Nepal

Update: 6 May 2015

MSF sets up a 20-bed inflatable hospital

  • The first tent is the operating room. Then there’s the obstetrics unit and the maternity unit.
  • We will be treating all categories of patients: children, adults, men and women, obstetric cases – so maternity care
  • We will be performing follow-up surgery on earthquake wounds that have become infected, and emergency surgery such as cesareans.

Update: 5 May 2015

  • Anne Kluijtmans, an MSF nurse from Holland, was on holiday in Nepal when the earthquake struck on Saturday 25 April. She quickly joined the MSF teams who had arrived in the country to respond. “Some villages are 80-100 percent destroyed”
  • At the moment we have helicopters to use for medical activities and for distributing blankets, food and shelter kits.
  • On Thursday we started running a mobile clinic by helicopter, visiting remote villages in the mountains north of Kathmandu.

MSF South Africa board member Dan Sermand who has over 15 years of humanitarian experience, has helped to lead the helicopter missions.

Currently in the mountains and out of telephone contact, Dan provided the following summary of MSF’s mobile work:

“The biggest challenge is to reach further into the remote areas, higher up in the mountains and in isolated valleys, where people have been cut off completely following the earthquake.

“During our assessments and medical mobile clinic outreach work by helicopter, we’ve seen the devastation: some villages were almost or completely laid to waste. Little or no assistance has reached many of these villages. People are living out in the open and fear aftershocks. They desperately need basic shelter & food items.

Some of the people our team has treated have wounds that have become infected and require minor surgery and follow up.

We are worried that monsoon rains will arrive soon and with that the danger of further landslides.”

Typically in the weeks following a natural disaster such as an earthquake, water and sanitation become critical issues and people can develop diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections because they’re living outside.

Knowing that it would be extremely difficult to get people and supplies in quickly through Kathmandu airport, four of our teams working in Bihar state in India had set out by road on Sunday morning with medical supplies, along with a truck carrying 1 000 shelter kits, 500 hygiene kits and 500 family kits.

MSF is sending eight teams to assist victims of the Nepal Earthquake, which shook the Kathmandu Valley on Saturday.

For Doctors Without Borders (MSF) the ability to respond quickly to medical humanitarian emergencies is crucial to save more lives. Unrestricted and regular donations allow us to allocate our resources most efficiently and where the needs are greatest.

Thank you for allowing us  to mobilise quickly when there is an emergency.

Update: 1 May 2015

  • 24 tonnes of cargo arrived in Kathmandu.
  • A team is continuing mobile clinic activities by helicopter in remote villages in the mountains to the north of Kathmandu.
  • A mobile medical team is visiting remote villages in the mountains to the north-west of Kathmandu to provide consultations and assess further needs.
  • A surgeon is assessing the the capacity of the referral hospital in Bharatpur, south of Ghorka, which has been receiving patients following the earthquake.
  • A team is continuing its assessment of the location to set up the inflatable hospital that arrived by cargo plane on Wednesday night.
  • A nurse and a doctor are providing support in the medical evacuation of some patients from Larpak in Ghorka district.
  • A surgical team (surgeon, anaethetist, nurse) is continuing to support the hospital in Bhaktapur. They have managed 5 major surgeries so far.

Update: 30 April 2015

  • A team (doctor, nurse, logistician) began mobile clinic activities by helicopter in the mountains to the north of Kathmandu, including Langtang valley and Rasuwa district. They saw around 30 patients and also assessed the needs in a number of villages in the area.
  • A surgical team (surgeon, anaethetist, nurse) began supporting the hospital in Bhaktapur. They have managed 5 major surgeries so far.
  • 240 shelter kits (1 kit = 1 family) were distributed in Balwat Bazaar in Ghorka district.
  • 1 200 kg of cargo arrived in Kathmandu.

Update: 28 April 2015

Teams from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have arrived in Nepal and are currently assessing the most urgent medical needs of people affected by the earthquake. From the first aerial assessments, the damage seems to be significant in a number of villages in the mountainous region.

Due to the destruction, there is a need for relief items such as hygiene materials, materials for shelter and cooking equipment.

More of our teams are expected to arrive in Nepal later today and over the coming days.

MSF SA's Dan Sermand is one of the fieldworkers joining the teams in Kathmandu. Dan will be an emergency coordinator in the response: 

We’d like to wish MSF SA board member Dan Sermand well. Dan is heading to Nepal to assist with the earthquake emergency...

Posted by Doctors Without Borders/MSF South Africa on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In Nepal

  • MSF currently has approximately 38 staff on the ground in Nepal, based in Kathmandu and Ghorka.
  • An MSF team has assessed the situation in Bhaktapur (east of Kathmandu), which has experienced destruction.
  • People are staying in makeshift shelters, leaving them vulnerable.
  • A surgical team and rapid intervention surgical kit arrived in Kathmandu late on Monday night and began assessments on Tuesday morning.

8 MSF teams on the ground in #Nepal. We responded without delay thanks to monthly donor contributions. THANK YOU!

— MSF Southern Africa (@MSF_southafrica) April 29, 2015

En route

  • Teams from the Netherlands, Japan and India are en route or waiting to leave for Nepal, including surgeons, midwives, anaesthetists and water and sanitation experts.
  • A 35 tonne charter plane with an inflatable hospital and drugs departed from Bordeaux, France, today.

Emergency aid for Nepal

A 7.8-magnitute earthquake shook the Kathmandu Valley before noon on Saturday. Although the extent of the damages is still unknown, initial reports say houses and buildings collapsed in Kathmandu and surrounding areas.

Tremors were also strongly felt in northern India, in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

MSF will send 3 000 medical and non-food items kits to Nepal.

This page will be updated regularly with new information on our emergency response as the situation develops. Follow @MSF_southafrica on Twitter for realtime updates.

MSF previously worked in Nepal from 2002 to 2009.

Why were we there?

  • Armed conflict


Latest Activity Report With Nepal (2009)

MSF worked in Nepal between 2002 and 2009. Teams provided healthcare to people affected by the conflict between government forces and the Communist Party of Nepal which lasted from 1996 until 2006, and by the resurgence of violence that accompanied a chaotic peace process. MSF worked where help was most needed, including in basic healthcare, reproductive healthcare and water and sanitation provision.

Despite Nepal’s struggles with political stability after the peace process, MSF left the country as government agencies and developmental organisations started to take a longer-term approach to covering the people’s health needs.

Oxytocin misuse

Teams worked to increase knowledge about reproductive health and called for better access to good-quality public health services. Through a number of national radio announcements and education at local level, MSF also addressed the issue of oxytocin misuse.

The drug, used to stimulate contractions in pregnant women, is widely misused. This can result in foetal and neonatal deaths, and ruptures of the uterus. The drug can be used safely in small doses if the baby is overdue, but in Nepal it is common to take high doses to try to induce a birth prematurely, especially to make the birth take place on a religiously significant date.

In May 2009, MSF handed over programmes in the isolated mountainous Kalikot district. Up until then MSF had offered basic and secondary healthcare, tuberculosis treatment and emergency services with a special focus on healthcare for pregnant women and children under five.

In 2009, MSF carried out more than 10,000 consultations and assisted with 192 deliveries.

Handing over

In December 2009, MSF handed over its last remaining programme in the Terai region of Nepal, which provided free medical services, emergency consultations, maternal healthcare, and treatment of acutely malnourished children.

In the areas affected by internal unrest MSF used mobile clinics in the most neglected areas and transferred patients needing more care to its facility at Gaur District Hospital. MSF carried out more than 10,000 consultations and assisted more than 1 300 deliveries.

In the areas where it worked, MSF left behind an improved level of care for mothers and newborns, and better trained staff.

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Date published: 
Wednesday, 13 May, 2015
Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

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