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Taking health and care to rural mountain villages when disaster strikes

The earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015 caused devastation and destruction that the country has still not recovered from. Almost 9,000 people lost their lives and over 22,000 were injured in Ne...

The earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015 caused devastation and destruction that the country has still not recovered from. Almost 9,000 people lost their lives and over 22,000 were injured in Nepal’s worst natural disaster for 80 years.  

The earthquake severely disrupted access to healthcare and family planning. Thousands of people were displaced far from their usual clinics or support networks.  

In the days and weeks after the earthquake, the Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN) took action to make people’s health and family planning needs a top priority. Within 48 hours they were running emergency health camps across the country, dispensing medicines and bringing vital, changing support to thousands of survivors. 

Photography © IPPF/Jon Spaull
Two years after the earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015, the village of Gatlang in the country’s mountainous north still lies in partial ruin. The houses here are built from enormous slabs of local stone, carved windows and doors, and roofs of stacked wooden planks.
In the days after the quake struck, FPAN wasted no time. “The first thing we did was to identify the needs of the people,” says branch manager Sharad. “We realised people were being deprived of services,” with many clinics and hospitals damaged, closed or overwhelmed by patients. "All the volunteers and staff came together and made a plan: we identified the most affected areas and went there with mobile services.”
Kopila Tamang is a 24-year-old farmer and mother to two young boys. Her husband works as a lorry driver and is often away. “When the earthquake struck, I was working in the fields,” she says. “If I had been at home, I would have died.”
Devendra is the district project coordinator at the Rasuwa branch. "FPAN conducted a three-month mobile camp providing healthcare, family planning services and medical supplies. The health camp really helped people get the services.”
Pasang lives in Gatlang, high up in the mountains of northern Nepal, 15 km from the Tibetan border. “After the earthquake, there were so many problems. So many homes were destroyed. People are still living in temporary homes because they’re unable to rebuild their homes.”  Pregnant women fared particularly badly: “They were unable to access nutritious food or find a warm place. They really suffered.”
Volunteers like Pasang perform a crucial function in a region where literacy levels and a strongly patriarchal culture mean that women marry young and have to get consent from their husbands before using contraception. In this remote community, direct contact with a volunteer who can offer advice and guidance orally, and talk to women about their broader health needs, is absolutely vital.
FPAN's team ran classes on menstrual hygiene and taught women and girls how to make sanitary pads from scratch. In an impoverished country like Nepal, many women and girls can simply not afford to buy sanitary pads and tampons.
Like many villages in Nepal they are hard to reach in remote mountainous regions.
FPAN organized mobile health camps offered medicines, health check ups, dignity kits, family planning, antenatal checks and other vital services.
Houses are still too dangerous to live in following the earthquakes' widespread devastation. The effect on houses and buildings was catastrophic; many who lost their homes are still living in corrugated iron shacks.
Muna lives with her husband and two children in Bakultar, a rambling village of mud houses, tea shacks and vegetable, miles off a main road, at the end of a long dirt track in Kavre district.  When the earthquake struck, she and her family were cleaning the cowshed.  “It was so scary,” she says. “The children were not at home: we were so worried about the children and went looking for them. They were also looking for us.”
Anjal, a business student from Bhaktapur, spent five hours trapped in the rubble of her family’s house. They lived in one of the traditional mud and wooden houses that line the streets of this ancient temple city. Some of the mud walls and wooden support structure fell on Anjal’s legs and arms, trapping her.  “I was thinking to myself: this is going to be the end of my life: I won’t survive.”
For Rita, a twenty-two-year-old nurse from Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley, the earthquake was an eye-opening ordeal: it gave her first-hand experience of the different ways that natural disasters can affect people, particularly women and girls.  “After the earthquake, FPAN was organising menstrual hygiene classes for affected people, and I took part in these.”






Related Member Association

Family Planning Association of Nepal