Nepal: Legs Cut Off Due To Earthquake ― To Restore Life

“I tried to touch my legs only to realize that I didn’t have them anymore,” said Mr. Ramesh KHATRI (age 18). When a major earthquake hit Nepal in April 2015,  Ramesh was working at a guesthouse in the capital Kathmandu in order to send living expenses back to his wife in their hometown.

Mr. Ramesh KATRI from western Nepal was working in Kathmandu
 after he quit school because of his family’s poverty. (Lalitpur, December 9th, 2015) 

“I was having a meal at home on the 8th floor. As the earthquake hit, I tried to escape. Just when I reached the 4th floor, however, the building collapsed.” Ramesh continued: “Feeling groggy, I called for help but was not sure if I was making a sound or not. It was a long time until help came. At night, I finally could sense that somebody was digging from high above, and was rescued. I lost consciousness on arrival to hospital.”

Three days later, he regained consciousness.  Ramesh felt ‘phantom pain’ in his legs, which had been amputated by doctors. He received a wheelchair from a local NGO when he was discharged from the hospital two month later. Since then, he’s been living in a social center for persons with disabilities in Kathmandu.  Ramesh says that he is worried about his uncertain future; “I’ll have to leave the center soon or later, but I can’t work. Where can I live? How can I feed my wife? “

Like Ramesh, more than 600 people are said to have become disabled by losing arms or legs, or from spinal cord injury due the earthquake in Nepal. In addition, many people are facing difficulties in living with loss of their homes after the earthquake. AAR Japan has been assisting these people through a local Nepalese partner, CIL(Independent Living Center for Persons with Disabilities)since August 2015.

First, AAR and CIL worked to provide food and water to persons with disabilities and their families who had been in a temporary camp set in a local hospital in Katmandu for the previous four months. After the camp was closed, a stipend for one month’s rental payment and kitchenware were offered for those who have not been able to go back to normal life due to severe disabilities or other reasons.

CIL is undertaking the first domestically manufactured wheelchairs in Nepal.
(At Katmandu University on December 9th, 2015)

In addition, AAR has been supporting the manufacture of wheelchairs in Nepal. The demand for wheelchairs in Nepal reaches 10,000 in number per year, and it has relied on imports from China and other countries to meet demand. CIL has started a challenge for the domestic manufacture of wheelchairs for the first time in Nepal. Light in weight using aluminum, domestic wheelchairs are designed to be easy to control by users. AAR has undertaken to finance the manufacturing costs for 50 wheelchairs.  Ramesh, who lost his legs in the earthquake, will also receive a wheelchair manufactured in Nepal. He says, “I’m happy because my current one is too heavy to move easily.”

Mr. Krishna GAUTAM, who is trying a new wheelchair on test, seems to be happy.
He says, “It’s light and easy to control.” (December 9th, 2015)

Mr. Krishna GAUTAM, who also lives with disabilities, emphasizes the importance of long-term assistance for the independence of persons with disabilities after the initial emergency assistance. ” There are many people with difficulties like  Ramesh who have lost legs. If they’re asked how they’re going to live after that, they don’t know what to do ― because a completely different life is waiting for them.” CIL accepts persons with disabilities in their office for a week to give them training for living with disabilities, and also offering them temporary jobs such as telephone receptionist for those who can work.

To help CIL’s funding for the continued activities, AAR has made a decision to support a poultry farming operation in the suburbs of Kathmandu, by bearing the initial start-up costs for obtaining the chicks necessary to start the business. CIL then plans to hire people with disabilities and raise chickens for later selling in the market. Profits will be returned for use by programs for persons with disabilities, as well as earthquake victims, that is said to account for more than 10% of the country’s population.

Despite the loss of his legs and continued anxiety,  Ramesh still clings to hope that he’ll go back to school one day and get a job. AAR remains committed to supporting persons with disabilities in Nepal recover their lives.

 Rena KATO, AAR Japan Tokyo Office
                               KATO was born in Tokyo. Upon finishing university, she worked in a press room
at a television company, and then stayed in U.K. and France after leaving the work.
She joined AAR Japan in October, 2014, being in charge of public relations and service for supporters.
 (profile at the time of posting of this article)

Japanese-English translation by Satomi Tomishima
English editing by Allan Richarz

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan’ s Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.