Helping People in the Himalayas See Again #HelptheHelpers

On August 2, 2016, a Nepali man visited a medical mission being held in a small village near the border of Tibet. His entire family died in the Gorkha earthquake in April, 2015, yet he was smiling when he arrived at the mission. When the doctors asked him why he was so happy, he responded that it was “God’s destiny” for him to be happy.

The Gorkha earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015, resulted in nearly 9,000 deaths and approximately 22,000 injuries. Over a year later, devastated communities still suffer – not only emotionally from the loss of entire generations, but physically from unmet medical needs and inadequate care resulting from damage done to Nepal’s healthcare system and facilities.

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A photo taken on April 30, 2015, shows the impact of the earthquake on Dhading Main Street in Jyamrung, Nepal.

Destroyed shelters and homes contributed to the rising number of injuries that were seen days and months after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck. Many of the skin conditions that affect the Nepali in these regions relate to prolonged exposure to the hot and humid climate, and with the loss of shelters or other permanent dwellings, bacterial infections like impetigo and fungal infections like ringworm are quick to take hold. Cataracts and other chronic eye conditions are prevalent as well.

The Helpers

Children’s Hospital for Eye, Ear/Nose/Throat, and Rehabilitation Services (CHEERS), is a large health care facility located in Bhaktapur, Nepal. With a mission to eliminate barriers that impede the achievement of human potential, CHEERS focuses on health as an entry point for promoting equity and social inclusion. As the first hospital in Nepal dedicated to pediatric eye and ear health, CHEERS helps children in need by providing comprehensive vision and auditory care. Their team of dedicated specialists provides services to Nepalese children who come from all over the country, oftentimes with conditions that are extremely difficult to treat.

Dr. Kamal Khadka, from CHEERS Hospital, performed 38 cataract removal surgeries over the course of the 3-day medical mission. After having the procedure done, Nepali patients returned the next day to have their eye patches removed. For the first time in years, they could see again.

Helping the Helpers

To support the critical work of CHEERS and other organizations throughout the world, Direct Relief and Unilever’s Vaseline® brand formed the Vaseline® Healing Project, a partnership set on healing the skin of 5 million people living in crisis and disaster by 2020. A key component of the project involves the deployment of dermatologists, doctors, and medical resources to areas of need around the world.

In 2016, over 11,000 patients were treated and nearly 6,200 dermatological evaluations were performed during medical missions facilitated by the Vaseline Healing Project.

In August 2016, Vaseline and Direct Relief partnered with CHEERS to conduct a medical mission in Bahrabise, Nepal. Doctors and medical staff from Kathmandu traveled to the facility to work alongside the specialists with the Vaseline Healing Project and provide comprehensive medical care to patients.

A Nepali man’s dermatological infection is treated with ointment on August 2, 2016, during the medical mission.

Over the course of three days, Nepali patients from areas devastated by the Gorkha earthquake, journeyed from their homes high in the Himalayas to see doctors and receive care. A team of 10 doctors treated over 2,000 patients – 481 of them children – and performed 429 dermatology evaluations and 43 eye surgeries. Treatment included the distribution of hearing aids, eye cataract removal surgery, and dermatological care to heal common skin infections including impetigo, ringworm and scabies.

In addition to CHEERS, Direct Relief has supported 23 partners since the earthquake, delivering more than 320,000 lbs. of requested emergency medicines and medical supplies with a wholesale value that exceeds $36 million.

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