Monday, September 19, 2011

September 18th 2011: Earthquake in Nepal

Dear Friends, The earthquake last night was very much felt here but I am ok and everyone at Anandaban is ok. It was my first earthquake and it took some moments to process what was happening. It felt like an impossibly enormous train was running on the other side of the wall. The floor shook and the windows rattled. I ran outside and prayed while dogs barked and the city screamed. It seemed to go on for maybe a long minute. I’d stayed in KTM – where we never lost power or internet during the earthquake. The phone lines, however, were quickly overwhelmed by those trying to check loved ones. It was very odd to sit and wait for google news to detect anyone reporting it. It was too big, even in my inexperienced opinion, not to rank immediate international news. It took about 30 minutes. But contextual and infrastructure limitations are restricting rapid checking of those closest and possibly more strongly affected.


Due to the mountainous and remote terrain, many Nepalese potentially affected by this earthquake live in areas difficult to assess. By remote, I mean 1-5 days walk over steep, high hills to the nearest road or health facility for trauma care. No pictures, reports or video from those areas in Nepal, Tibet or India will be very fast in coming unless someone dedicated is going trek or helicopter out there.  Please pray for those people and the others still trying to contact loved ones.


Thankfully, the seismologists are saying that the rapid occurrence of lesser aftershocks immediately following the 6.9 earthquake was a good sign (barely felt here). They say that if there had been no aftershocks, then it would mean that pressure was building for another soon and bigger earthquake.


Also, if you look at scientific seismological websites, you will observe that the epicenter is just inside the border of Nepal very high up in the mostly uninhabited parts of the Himalayas – but most news websites are initially labeling it the Sikkim or Indian earthquake.  This is likely because the Indian news agencies had the infrastructure, immediately accessible populations affected and capacity to upload pictures and video more rapidly for distribution to many connecting networks nationally and internationally in English. I had trouble even finding news on the radio in Nepali after it happened and did not have a TV to check. Therefore, most of the news first reported that I saw came from India online with pics and video rapidly following.


Regardless, the maps of the border position mean that Indian, Chinese, Nepalese, Bhutanese and Bangladeshis likely all had impact, and all have populations that need to be checked. These are difficult terrains that, going southward, have  increases in population densities as altitude rapidly decreases into the more farmable flatlands (green on the map).  (It’s kind of reminiscent of the hurricanes that often hit the region I grew up in: websites follow the track of the storm’s eye but everyone knows to also consider the broad expanse of territory that the storm can actually effect.)


Earthquake Location


The epicenter that high up in the hills means that the worst shaking happened where there is thankfully most likely few. But the broad coverage of the earthquake was felt by many across Nepal and down to Delhi, India. If you look at this hazard map (where darkness indicates higher risk areas), you’ll see that there were far worse places hosting far more population that could have been hit. But then again, you have to remember that in this region, population densities are relative to millions and billions.


Seismic Hazard Map


The people at Nilphamari in the Leprosy Mission Hospital in the northern tip of Bangladesh are also shaken but ok.


Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

110728 Random recent pics

Well, in KTM, I have better access to internet. So, time to try and catch up on posting some pics. This post should include these photos listed. Not sure in what order the email will post them, but you can surely figure out which is which.


1.      Setting the foundation stones of the new dhobi house (laundry). I’ll post some pics from the old building sometime so you will understand why this is needed! The visiting foreigners on compound were given the honor of laying the four cornerstones and a stone in the middle. But, we were short a visitor, so I was asked to set the last one in the middle. Louise, from the TLM England Wales Office has a close up shot, after setting the first stone. Damaris, a Swiss nursing student volunteer in her white coat, set the 4th cornerstone. A glance up the steps at some of the staff audience to the early morning ceremony. The group shots are of Machen dai with the work team that is actually building it. If you notice that the ground looks damp…well, it’s monsoon season! Monsoon awakens all the eggs laid last year. Exponential  hatching. Haven’t seen a leech yet, personally, but I try to avoid contact with those. The giant slugs and slug tigers are out. As are the love bugs. And the cicadas are steadily gaining in volume, but nowhere near seasonal peak noise levels yet.  

2.      Staff and visitors crammed in the van nepali style trying to get back to KTM at the end of the day. The road is bumpy, so I took several shots trying to catch the staff sitting on the floor between seats. Who needs seatbelts when packed like this?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Serving remote areas: Opinions of some young Nepali doctors

Young Doctors Talk (by SAHARA SHARMA)

KATHMANDU, Feb 3: Back in primary school, everyone asked us one and the only question monotonously: What we wanted to be in future. And we spontaneously burst out doctor! doctor! The answer was almost ubiquities because all of us had vivid dreams of wanting to become a doctor. For some, as they grow into adults, their childhood fantasies vanish like dreams, for others, it will be a dream come true. But, how far will this profession bring along that immense name and fame as instilled right from our childhood? In this edition of gennext, we exchanged some chitchat with doctors who spoke on what it is like to be a doctor. Dr Subash Thapa Magar, 31, Dr Bibek Khanal, 27, Dr Jolisha Singh, 25, and Dr Sailendra Kushwa, 27, joined us in the chit-chat.

Asked if becoming a doctor was absolute aim for them, Dr Jolisha replied in one word: "Completely!" At a glance, Dr Joshila didn't conform to the usual stereotype of a doctor. But as conversations intensified, it became crystal clear that she enjoys and respect the profession very much. Dr Shailendra too has carried the dream for as long as he can remember. "All of us have aims to become a doctor. So was mine and I am here today," he says smilingly. Appearance can be deceiving sometimes. As the conversation progressed, it turned out that among the group, Subash was the eldest and experienced doctor. He was the power pack of the group, extremely vivacious and beguiling.  Getting back to the basics, he answered, "I knew this is what I wanted to do" (implying that he was satiated with his profession). And there was yet another doctor - Bibek - who was more of an observer, carrying the look of a sober thinker, who suddenly burst out: "It is probably the esteem attached to the profession that lured me." He, then, went on elaborating and accepting the fact that doctors are bestowed with immense respect and kept in higher social strata.  

When asked to comment further, Jolisha replies, "It is probably the toughest job." She then adds, "There is always a pressure, a kind of bondage." When asked to clarify the points, she sighs, adding, "We are expected to talk and walk in a particular way, we are expected to heal all of our patients." Shailendra adds here: "We're taken as if we possess magic or some sort of supernatural power; we can't cure every single patient coming to us. All we can do is to try and we do that." Bibek nods on and says, "We are not God, we can't blow in some magic air and bring back life, we work according to science and do our best to solve our patients' problems."  "If it were solely our decision we would heal every sick and wailing person in the country," puts in Subash.

His answers evoked a flurry of questions: Why then our healers are confined to the wards of the modern capital city hospitals alone? Why then do they not take an initiative to go to places where people can't find a doctor? Are there not enough hospitals and doctors in the capital already? "We do understand the need of a medical professional in remote areas but we are helpless," answered Bibek. He elaborated that since the health posts in the villages have no equipment, there is not much that they can do. Subash narrated his own story as to how he once went to a village through an INGO (the name of which he does not wish to disclose) but soon discovered that the health camps set up there had only limited medical facilities. And so he quit.

"I have bought medicines from my own pocket many a times, but how long could I do this?" he asked, looking frustrated. After all, a student on average pays Rs 4 million to complete a medical course and he/she has family to look after, he adds. "We do want to go to villages and serve there but at the same time we demand proper arrangement," Jolisha said. She further said that a few of her friends who are working in remote places have sad stories to tell. "They are as helpless as the patients there without a chance to update themselves on their vocation and latest developments in the medical sciences." "Being there is limiting us to knowledge and what discourages us more is the dismal pay," she argues.

Tis the Dry Season...

Lights out for TV news in Nepal
(AFP) –
KATHMANDU — Nepal's most watched television station is to broadcast
its main evening news bulletin in semi-darkness from Tuesday to
highlight the problems caused by the country's chronic electricity
Kantipur Television said it would rely on traditional kerosene
lanterns -- a common sight across Nepal -- to light the studio every
night in a symbolic protest over the power crisis.
It hopes to pressurise the government to resolve an electricity
shortage that sees homes and businesses in Nepal plunged into darkness
for up to 18 hours a day, despite the huge potential for hydropower in
the Himalayan nation.
The programme, broadcast every evening, is to be renamed after the
Nepalese word for lantern and will carry themed news reports, starting
with an interview Tuesday with Nepal's energy minister.
"It is a symbolic protest, but we hope it will strike a chord with our
viewers," Kantipur's news chief Tirtha Koirala told AFP.
"These power cuts have brought people's daily lives to a standstill.
Media organisations are losing money because no one can watch the
television in a power cut and we are forced to use expensive
generators to broadcast.
"There are no penalties on the government for failing to provide these
basic needs, so we wanted to put moral pressure on them to do
Impoverished Nepal relies mainly on hydropower for its electricity,
but produces only 634 megawatts a year, well short of the national
requirement, according to the Nepal Electricity Authority.
Experts say the Nepal's huge mountain river system could be generating
up to 83,000 megawatts of power, allowing it to sell surplus
electricity to other countries.
But political instability and the lack of security have prevented the
necessary investment.