Tag Archives: disaster

My first relief camp – in the aftermath of Nepal earthquake

It’s 7. 30 am, and I’m outside CBM partner Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children (HRDC) in Banepa, 22 km east of capital Kathmandu. Around me is a stream of vehicles waiting to depart for the second day of the ‘Disability Relief Camp’ scheduled at a remote village called in Sindhupalchowk – the district which has one of the highest number of casualties – after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, 2015. The death toll in this district alone has crossed 1300, while that of the country slowly inches toward 7,000, with more than 14,000 injured.

A bus outside 'Hospital & Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children

Waiting to depart

As I board the bus, I can see boxes of plaster supplies, stacks of orthopaedic appliances, drinking water, medical equipment, relief supplies and so much more. There are about 20 members in the bus, including two orthopaedic surgeons, two physiotherapists and three nurses among other paramedical and support staff, ready of the mission. As we set off, I’m reminded of the ordeal we had to go through last Saturday when the massive earthquake hit, followed by strong aftershocks lasting for several days. I’m also reminded of how my entire family slept in a hall on the ground floor, waking up several times at night to run out to the street. Then I was at my hometown Rajbiraj, about 450 km from Kathmandu.

Taking part in emergency response

Although there was no major damage to lives and property, I’ve never experienced anything so horrifying in my life. Nevertheless, I’m glad that a week later, I’m part of an emergency relief camp that aims to provide much-needed medical care and attention to the people in the remote hilly villages of Sindhupalchowk district.

Damaged buildings; people walking past, carrying bags

Damaged buildings

Two hours later, we are at Sipaghat, a village of about 1000-odd population, situated on the bank of Indravati river. All along, I can see mud houses reduced to rubble, with pieces of broken windows and doors strewn around. Sometimes, the areas smelled of decayed flesh. The devastation caused by the quake is much more than I could imagine. People here are in dire need of relief services.



Soon after, as we park the bus in the village and begin to take the tarps out, a huge crowd gathers to know if we have brought relief supplies for distribution. However, they are equally relieved to know we have come to provide free medical care for those who suffered injuries during the earthquake. While we are just setting up the venue and opening the supply boxes, three severely injured victims have already been brought to the camp.

The first client is Deepa, a young woman with a spinal injury and an arm fracture. She has been carried from a village across the river on a makeshift stretcher, waiting for medical attention since last Saturday.

“I thought I had managed to leave the house when the roof came crushing down on me. I fell on the ground, unconscious… Later, my mother came to pull me out of the debris…” recounts Deepa with a heavy voice. “I have been waiting for medical care since then….” she adds as tears run down her face.

Her house has collapsed completely and she had to stay in a tent with all her injuries for the last six days. The earthquake triggered landslides which cut off the only way to her village. It was only on Thursday, April 30th, a rescue team managed to land a helicopter in the village and provided her a spinal belt to hold the backbone in position. At the camp, the doctors decide to transfer Deepa in an ambulance to a private hospital in Kathmandu, where she will be given free treatment.

More people arrive

As the medical team continues to attend to clients at the venue, the HRDC bus is sent out to bring more patients from the nearby villages. There isn’t a moment the medical and support staff can have rest as more and more clients keep coming in. There are patients of all age groups, with broken arms and ribs, severe head and spinal injuries, and many with deep cuts to their heads and other body parts. With minimum surgical equipment, the doctors are also able to suture cuts and wounds – relieving the victims of the burden of travelling to the nearest hospital. There are also people suffering from diarrhea, fever, cold and other communicable diseases. All of these clients are given free medicines – and a relief pack comprising of biscuits and energy drinks, which the support staff have tirelessly packed the previous night.

People sitting eating; one girl has plaster cast on leg

Children with broken limbs, who were provided plaster casts, have been asked to come to HRDC for a follow-up after a week

By the end of the day, a total of 133 clients from 10 neighbouring villages have been treated at the relief camp, including 13 severe cases who are transported to Kathmandu in an HRDC ambulance. Also, five children with broken limbs, who were provided plaster casts, have been asked to come to HRDC for a follow-up after a week. And just like the camp, they would be treated there free of charge.

“I’m so happy that we could serve as many as 133 cases today, who would otherwise have been left in the lurch. I’m very thankful to all the support staff and volunteers who went out to bring patients from the nearby villages…” says Dr Bibek Banskota, medical director at HRDC. “I believe there are more people injured by the earthquake and are waiting for medical services… I think we need to plan more relief camps in this district.”


It’s 6 pm, and the sun is coming down slowly on the hills of Sindhupalchowk. A district that is barely 100 kilometres from Kathmandu had to bear the burnt of the violent earthquake. Nonetheless, with a caring organization like HRDC in the neighbourhood, there is definitely some hope for the affected communities. All in all, it was an immensely fulfilling day… although I’m exhausted and ready to drop, I’m happy that I could do my bit to support fellow humans in need.

Thanks to CBM and HRDC.

Read more about Nepal earthquake


Moving on from vulnerability

It’s not even the first day of the conference, yet I was inspired.

What did it? Well, it was the ability of Monthian Buntan (who is on the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Former Senator of Thailand) to motivate and simplify…

A man resenting using slides with large audence (30-70 people)

Monthian Buntan at the Multi stakeholders pre-conference on disability-inclusive DRR

I’m attending the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in Bangkok. It is a venue for countries, organisations and individuals to meet and discuss the way forward in reducing disaster risk in the region. And it is the final regional inter-governmental meeting in Asia before the completion of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-15 and the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Senda, Japan, March 2015.


For CBM and our partners in the Disability inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network (DiDRRN) the priority is ensuring the active participation of people with disability in DRR policy and practice post-2015.

I know, that all sounds complicated, so let’s get back to the inspiration and simplification!

This morning I was at the Multi stakeholders pre-conference on disability-inclusive DRR (discussion before the big events start proper tomorrow). Here were many good speeches and quotes, and a short discussion, but the inspiring bit for me was Monthian Buntan’s insistence – and everyone’s agreement – that persons with disabilities do not need to be classed as ‘vulnerable’.

“We are vulnerable because we are not perceived to be capable of making any contribution, but only recipients of help and custodial care.

“We will remain vulnerable and excluded should we not be able to participate effectively in all planning and implementing stages of DRR due to lack of genuine accessibility.”

Three boxes with texts 'accessibility, participation and inclusion', linked by doule-ended arrows forming a triangle

Explaining the link between accessibility, participation and inclusion

Mr Buntan talked about how being inclusive means that people with disabilities should be able to contribute and enjoy the benefit of DRR.

If this was music to my ears, he then went on to explain very simply how inclusion, participation and accessibility are the three interdependent factors which will help reposition this shift in perception towards disability…

  • It is accessibility that determines the level of participation, and vice versa
  • It is both accessibility and participation which determines inclusion

“If persons with disabilities are to be truly regarded as development partners and rights holders through Disability Inclusive DRR, these three factors must be seriously taken into account.

For me, this is common sense, essential action and all explained as simply as possible… I’ll try to spot similarly easy things in the coming days though cannot promise… bear with me! (follow on Twitter too @gordonrattray)

Resources to advocate for disability inclusive post-2015 framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (HFA2)


Access to education – Rebuilding after Haiyan

Sitting here in the air conditioned bubble of the departure lounge of Iloilo airport, waiting to fly back to Manila, my thoughts go back to some of the people I met in in Iloilo.

One place in particular comes to mind.

A combination photo showing a new building (above) and a destroyed building (below)

New resource centre for Carles School in Iloilo (above), and the old building (below) which was completely destroyed by typhoon Haiyan

CBM works with partner RBI (Resources for the Blind), who ensure that children with visual impairments – and they may also have hearing, learning or mobility difficulties – have the chance to access education.

In November, Typhoon Haiyan destroyed many of the buildings that are used for these classes, effectively ending education for the children.

But with CBM support, the centre at Carles School has already been rebuilt and is ready to be furnished. Of all the buildings at the school that were affected by the super-typhoon, it is the first to be restored.

And like this airport lounge, it’s cool, clean and spacious – a haven from the heat and stress of daily life, and a perfect learning environment.

It should be ready for use – equipped with assistive devices – by the beginning of the school year in June. Continue reading

Ageing and Disability Focal Points – providing the essential link

I’m in the Philippines, near the coast on Panay Island, and good internet connections seem few and far between. In a way we’re so busy that it’s a not so bad to have no email for a day or two (don’t tell anyone I said that), but I’ve so much I want to share!

It’s almost five months since typhoon Haiyan tore across this beautiful country, destroying homes and lives. With our partners here, CBM provided essential relief supplies in the beginning, ensuring that people with disabilities were not forgotten, and are now working on longer term recovery and rehabilitation.

A man (using crutches as he is an above-knee amputee) next to a banner saying Aging and Disability Focal Point

Santy Villanueva (ADFP Community Organiser) in Estancia

Continue reading