Relief In the Aftermath of Devastating Earthquakes

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The unforeseen moment arrived with a shock on April 25, just before noon local time. In the hill district northwest of Kathmandu, two massive tectonic plates 15 kilometers below the surface shifted, releasing the equivalent of a century of built-up strain.

The roof of the earth cracked open and slid, and hillsides and walls crashed down. In the villages of Laprak and Barpak near the epicenter, 90 percent of the homes were destroyed. Landslides destroyed houses and cut off remote mountain villages across the High Himalaya. On Everest, an avalanche swept through the base camp at the start of the climbing season, killing 19 people, the deadliest day in history on the world’s highest mountain. The ruptured fault plane extended 70 kilometers from the epicenter, beneath the country’s densely populated capital city, reducing residential buildings and ancient towers and temples to rubble. Aftershocks continued for days and weeks, and then another quake, on May 12 — 7.3 on the Richter scale — shook from the same fault line, farther east, adding scores to a national death toll that had already climbed above 8,000 souls. Tens of thousands of Nepalese remained without food and shelter.

In the face of almost overwhelming suffering and need, The Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology pivoted overnight into a national relief center, taking in trauma patients and using its network of contacts and its hub-and-spoke system to deliver emergency medicines and hundreds of thousands of meals to thousands of people in devastated outlying areas. The Himalayan Cataract Project raised $250,000 in nine days. At the airport at Kathmandu, on convoys of loaded trucks, in the hands of volunteers working side by side, cartons and bags of rice and lentils carried the modest, black-and-white labels: Small Help From Tilganga.

Recovering from a human tragedy of such scale and severity will take years, and would appear daunting, to some, to the point of hopelessness. But the dedicated doctors and staff of the Himalayan Cataract Project know, better than most, the power of the human spirit, and the importance of the effort. As Dr. Sanduk Ruit has said so many times, "You do what you can do."

I would appeal to all our friends around the world who have loved our work and loved this country and its people. We are quite happy to build a strong, effective platform to coordinate this in a small way. Again, many thanks from the heart for the compassion you have shown in such an unforeseen moment.

– Dr. Sanduk Ruit

04.26.15

An open letter from Dr. Sanduk Ruit

This is one of the worst natural disasters in my lifetime. A major 7.8 Richter scale earthquake struck 24 hours ago followed by more than 100 aftershocks and one earthquake measuring 6.9 Richter scale some time ago. The scale of human casualty will be more than 2,500.

But, there will be thousands left homeless in many parts of Nepal where life is much more difficult. For these families, to tune up to normalcy will take them a very long time. The most affected areas has been the areas where Tilganga is most active and we understand the locality very well.

There are very hearty and generous messages from friends all over the world, who want to be helpful. I think it will be good for Tilganga to spearhead an effective platform to help the country and its beautiful people with the support from all our friends around the world.

Presently, everything is going at a warpath and the country is in state of emergency and all efforts have been put to save and retrieve people from the wreckages hoping they will live and be given medical treatment. The state seems to be coordinating all the acute relief quite well in spite of all the constraints. The second phase will be to give a longer treatment to some of the casualties and give immediate relief to the ones without shelter. It is really a tragic part that we have been left with total or semi damaged cultural heritages mostly in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The restoration of these will be a long haul for the state. The longer term relief would be to rehabilitate the homeless, mentally struck inhabitants of some remote areas.

I would appeal to all our friends around the world who have loved our work and loved this country and its people. We are quite happy to build a strong, effective platform to coordinate this in a small way. Again, many thanks from the heart for the compassion you have shown in such an unforeseen moment.

Brian Doolan from The Fred Hollows Foundation and Geoffery Tabin from the Himalayan Cataract Project have already committed generously.

Hope this is the end and no further damage takes place.

Thank you once again.

Best regards,
Sanduk Ruit

The Updates

04.27.15

As the death toll rises to 4,000, the situation in rural Nepal in the affected districts is beyond description. We decided to send truckloads of supplies containing food, drinks, medical supplies, tent and linens to three rural districts — Gorkha, Dhading and Sindhupalchowk — the worst affected rural areas.

04.28.15

As the death toll mounts to more than 5,000 following Saturday’s tragedy, the entire staff of Tilganga is involved in relief operations with an enthusiasm I have never seen in them before. We have decided that it will take a long time and we need to run it professionally and effectively in the same the way as we have been conducting sight restoration programs. This tragedy has left thousands of people homeless, helpless and broken. We have vowed to be part of their healing process with the help of our international partners.

As of this morning, we have packed food, relief materials, and emergency medical kits for one thousand families that went out with a Tilganga team led by Dr. Suman Thapa, Khim Gurung and Krishna Gopal. They are already in Melamchi, Sindhupalchowk District, one of the worst affected areas. A similar medical team will go out each day to different districts, provided we get enough financial resources.

04.30.15

News about increasing casualty to more than 5,500 and thousands more home less is making us sad. However, the Tilganga team is strongly committed to be where there is the most need. Dr. Reeta Gurung is in Dhading district with a Tilganga team distributing emergency relief materials, food and medical supplies for 1,500 families. Dr. Rohit Saiju and Elli have left for Nuwakot with relief materials for another 1,500 families. We are sending additional supplies — 50 sacks of rice, lentil & salt and solar lamps — to the Tilganga team in Melamchi led by Dr. Suman. Tomorrow, more supplies will go to very remote areas in helicopter.

Our existing ophthalmic network and credibility in these affected areas has been a great asset. All the staff members of Tilganga dedicated part of their salary for this cause. We at Tilganga and the Nepalese people are moved by your generosity, faith and love for the work we are doing, and hopefully we will be an effective helping hand for thousands of people going through the worst disasters of their life.

05.03.15

Relief food materials were sent to Rasuwa district yesterday that include 3 tons of rice, 500 kg of daal/lentils and 100 kg of salt.

These items were handed over to the local 'Earthquake Relief and Distribution Committee' formed by the government that includes representatives of local government officials, security forces, red cross and civil society. On behalf of Tilganga, the in-charge of Tilganga's Rasuwa District Community Eye Centre and District President of Nepal Red Cross Society Rasuwa District Chapter who is also the Chair of the Eye Centre Management committee handed over the materials to the committee at a place called Kalikasthan. The relief and distribution Committee will take these items to the affected communities by Army Helicopter along with other materials.

The relief materials distributed last week went to Sindhu, Dhading and Nuwakot districts.

Tilganga has helped coordinate efforts of a team of three Korean doctors who have arrived in Nepal. The team will be working with the medical team of Tribhuvan University's Teaching Hospital in Sindhu district. They have come with necessary medicines and equipment.

05.28.15

WE RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING UPDATE FROM TILGANGA ON RELIEF ACTIVITIES BEING CARRIED OUT:

Tilganga Relief Committee has decided to also provide some relief materials to the victims of Bhaktapur municipality. As we all know, Bhaktapur was also one of the heavily affected districts. Dr. Ruit and the team will go there this afternoon to hand over the following relief materials to the Bhaktapur Municipality’s relief and disaster management committee. The relief materials will include: 3 tons of rice, 250 kg of lentils/daal, a few hundred packets of instant noodles, rice flakes/beaten rice and sugar.

Another medical team from USA (Nepali origin medical doctors living in USA) has arrived through Tilganga’s network and will be going to Nuwakot district tomorrow, May 5, and Dhading day after tomorrow, May 6. Tilganga has arranged for them to work with the local medical teams.

05.12.15

Second Earthquake

A powerful earthquake shook Nepal today, less than three weeks after the massive earthquake that struck on April 25th. The United States Geological Survey assigned the quake a preliminary magnitude of 7.3, with the epicenter approximately 50 miles east of Kathmandu in the Dolakha district — another region where Tilganga works. Co-Founder Dr. Sanduk Ruit reports that the team in Kathmandu is safe following this recent earthquake. We will provide additional updates as we receive them.

05.21.15

Dr. Sanduk Ruit has reported that Tilganga is concluding its first phase of relief including provision of emergency food, relief and medicines to 6 different districts where Tilganga has extensive experience providing outreach eye care. As part of wrapping up this first phase, Tilganga just sent 12 truckloads of food, tents and emergency medicine to the Dolakha District, which was the epicenter of the second earthquake.

Tilganga’s next phase of relief will focus on providing temporary shelter to prepare for the upcoming monsoon season. They will start with temporary shelters in the village of Melamchi in the Sindhupalchowk District.

Dr. Ruit and Tilganga send their most and profound sincere thanks to everyone who has supported the relief efforts so far. This will be a long-term effort.