22-28 May 2015 #759

Physially challenged again

After the 25 April earthquake, one group that hasn’t received much attention are the disabled
Manisha Gauchan

The 25 April earthquake has left most of Central Nepal in shambles. Many people have lost their families, friends and loved ones, entire villages have been destroyed. We are slowly starting to hear about the psychological impact the incident has had on survivors. But one group that hasn’t received much attention are the disabled.

(Right) HARDER HIT: Dinesh Khadka (left) is one of the 30 disabled people sheltered at the temporary camp set up by the Independent Living Centre in Jawalakhel.

Imagine not being able to run during the quake because you are on a wheel-chair, being buried under the debris, or not being able to call for help because you do not have the ability to speak. How devastating was this earthquake for the physically challenged? We don’t know because there is still no data on the number of disabled people killed or buried by the quake.

Devi Acharya, who lost both her legs in a road accident, has been living at a temporary shelter set up by the Independent Living Centre at the Jawalakhel football ground. The camp currently has 30 disabled people. “We have still not been able to contact all our friends,” says Acharya who also serves as the treasurer of the group.

Disabled by polio, Ganesh KC, chair of the organisation and coordinator Bhojraj Shrestha are themselves working to ensure safer shelter for other disabled people.

“We need disabled-friendly safe houses because tarpaulin sheets won’t protect us from the rain. Those paralysed due to spinal cord injuries can’t sleep on mattresses, they need proper beds,” says Acharya.

The tents provided by China’s Red Cross Society look sturdy from the outside but don’t have any of the amenities that Acharya mentioned.

At a time when social media is flooded with pictures of people giving handouts of instant noodle cartons, the people at the shelter in Jawalakhel haven’t received much.

Unlike able-bodied individuals, they can’t push through crowds or fight for their share. Even though they have their own challenges to face, people like Acharya are more worried about those who have been recently disabled by the earthquake.

Says Acharya: “The number of people paralysed due to spinal cord injuries, I heard, has surpassed 400, I can’t imagine how many more people are disabled.”

Manisha Gauchan

Read also:

The pain of the living, Devaki Bista

Picture over people, Anjana Rajbhandary

Addressing posttraumatic stress, Anjana Rajbhandary

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