International Relief Work

Nepal Earthquake 2015

Amma’s Compassion Flowed to the Land of Pasupathinath: The Nepal Relief Project

The devastating earthquake that hit the Himalayan nation on 25th April 2015, claimed more than 8,000 lives and injured tens of thousands apart from affecting the lives of nearly eight million people directly. As the nation was beginning to gather their strength and preparing to rise from the destruction, another quake hit on the 12th of May. The entire nation had to relive the terror and pain. For the ordinary people in the valleys and mountains, fear and anxiety began to grip them once again with concerns on their safety and livelihood, leave alone the gargantuan task of reconstructing their homes, villages and towns from the warlike destruction.

The scenes of destruction and suffering of the people in the poor Himalayan nation moved many countries and non-governmental organisations. While relief and medical aid were planned and organised for the affected victims, the logistical challenge of transporting them to Kathmandu remained the biggest challenge. Nepal is landlocked and has no seaport and the nearest seaports are in Calcutta and Dhaka. The only option for urgent transportation is by air through Nepal’s only airport in its capital Kathmandu, the Tribhuvan International Airport.

Though the airport is limited in its runway capacity for large planes, the condition of the airport survived serious damages from the quakes. The locals believe that it is the Lord Pasupathinath, the presiding deity of the most sacred and ancient temple in Nepal that saved the airport. The Pasupathinath temple that was declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site is just next to the airport, separated only by a fence. It is difficult to imagine the calamity that would have befallen had the airport been rendered inoperable due to the quakes.

Essential Medicines as Aid

Below are the captured moments on the relief efforts involving two of Amma’s monastic disciples, Br. Vinayamrita Chaintanya and Vijayamrita Chaitanya who were sent to Kathmandu on Amma’s instruction. Initially, as soon as the first quake struck, Amma had sent Br. Nijamrita Chantanya with tons of relief aid as immediate relief effort for the affected victims. While, that was in progress, Br. Vinayamrita Chaitanya and Vijayamrita Chaitanya were tasked with helping to organise and distribute the medical relief supplies brought in from Malaysia.

In view of the need for injury related vaccines, 100,000 doses of Anti Tetanus Toxoid (ATT) were air transported to Kathmandu from Malaysia. The critical need for the vaccine, coupled with its scarcity, prompted the vaccines to be urgently brought to Nepal. The vaccines are not only important for those directly affected by the quake but were also badly needed during the post-quake period for those with injuries resulting from being trapped under the huge debris of the collapsed structures. There was a sigh of relief when the much needed vaccines arrived at the Medical Logistics Department of the Ministry of Health and Population. The Director, Dr Bhim Singh Tinkari informed that their supply of vaccines were at a critically low level (2,300 doses only). Similar concerns were expressed by the Director of the oldest Public Hospital in Nepal, the Bir Hospital, Prof Dr. Swoyam Prakash Pandit”. Apart from the ATT vaccines, two tons of essential medicines and surgical items were also donated to the Bir Hospital. Antibiotics, analgesics, ear and eye ointments and drops, various tablets and multivitamin vials, disposable sutures and dressing kits and a host of other essential medical items.

The Prime Minister of Nepal, The Most Honourable Sushil Koirala expressed his appreciation to Amma for the timely assistance. He poignantly stated that Nepal is in difficult position following the quake and the help rendered by the international community is overwhelming and it is ‘people like Amma who has tremendously helped to lessen the burden from his shoulders’. The vaccines were received by Ms Mridula Koirala, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Prayers and Consolations at Earthquake Site

While visiting the earthquake affected areas, the two swamis offered a prayer at one of the worst hit areas called Shanku, located at the outskirts of Kathmandu. This traditional village of the Newari people is an historical site with a number of old temples and stupas. The village witnessed about 140 deaths, experienced almost total destruction with most of its buildings rendered uninhabitable. The swamis conducted a brief prayer and chanted Amma’s Ashtottara Shatanaamavali at a small, 350 year old Krishna mandir that was still standing. The prayers were for the peace of the departed souls and recovery of the affected ones. The swamis also met and consoled the locals during their visit to the village.

Together with the two swamis, Amritapuri and Amma centers around the world also offers prayers for all the departed souls and their families. In the meantime, assistance for the affected people in terms of aid continues to be planned and channelled to the victims of the worst ever Nepal earthquake. We pray that before the forthcoming monsoon, the affected Himalayan people will be sufficiently sheltered and their hopes for permanent homes will soon materialise.

Pakistan Earthquake 2005/6  

Emergency Field Clinic in Bagh, Azad Kashmir

On the 8th of October 2005, Pakistan was struck by a massive earthquake affecting an area of approximately 30,000 square miles affecting 3.5 million people, with 73,276 deaths, 69,260 people injured, some 250,000 people facing a life-threatening situation, and almost 2.5 million losing their homes.

AFM organised a relief mission with a medical team that included surgeons and other doctors, armed with medication and tents. The relief mission focused on Bagh, a city situated 120km North of Islamabad and 40 kilometres south-east of Muzaffarabad, specifically on Noorman Pura, a village in the Hall Valley to provide medical care for the people from the periphery and the surrounding mountains. The medical team provided outpatient treatment and performed minor surgeries running a 24 hour clinic. Apart from serious clinical cases, there were also various types of injuries. All patients to the clinic were given vitamins and supplements too reduce the risk of opportunistic infections. Milk was provided for lactating mothers and newborn children with signs of nutritional deficiency as well as to babies who were deprived of breast milk. Other assistance included sanitary pads to deserving females, and toys for children. This medical clinic was subsequently taken over by the local people to continue to provide the service, facilitated by two large tents, twelve aluminium beds and the left-over medicines that were handed over to them.

Apart from this, a mobile medical team scaled the mountains to provide medical aid to the people trapped in high altitudes. In addition, 410 sets of winter bedding comprising a quilt and a blanket were distributed to the neediest sections of the mountain community.

Subsequently, due to acute need for Tetanus Toxoid to be administered as a prophylactic measure to all injured patients admitted into a health or medical camp, 50,000 doses of Anti Tetanus Toxoid (ATT) vaccine were airlifted to Bagh District Hospital from Malaysia.

After returning to Malaysia, AFM realised that the Himalayan winter had been harsh for those living in tents and other temporary shelters in the affected areas, and responded by providing about 60,000 pieces of winter clothing consisting mostly of short coats and winter sweaters to high altitude areas in Bagh. In addition, 12,000 blankets were also distributed to high altitude areas in Bagh.

In recognition of the relief work carried out for the Kashmir earthquake victims, the President of Pakistan conferred the award of “Tamgha-i-Eisaar” to the relief coordinator of Amriteswari Foundation of Malaysia.

 

Sri Lanka Tsunami 2004/5 

Extending Care Beyond Borders: AFM Medical Relief Team in
Sri Lanka Tsunami 2004/5

In the wake of the disastrous Tsunami aftermath that had devastated the coastlines of eleven countries in South Asia, at the request of the Sri Lankan government, AFM as part of Malaysian Medical Task Force to Sri Lanka (MMTF) organised a relief team. The initial team comprised two doctors and a few medical volunteers with experience in organizing medical camps in Malaysia, armed with approximately 1,000 kg. of essential drug supplies. The focus was to serve the most neglected areas.

The Sri Lankan project was divided into two phases. In the first phase, all resources were channelled to medical aid. Medical care was urgently needed, fearing epidemics after a disaster of such a scale. The first camp was in a Sri Lankan Muslim settlement at Kattangkudi, which had one of the highest death tolls in the East. Later, the team moved to Vakarai and covered the surrounding camps such as Bammi Vattuvan, Kandalady, Kathiravelu, Panichan Keni, Kirimichai Odai, Uriyankattu and Kattumurivu. MMTF also provided home visits with wound dressing services. Counseling was also provided for patients traumatised by the tsunami (especially those that suddenly lost loved ones). A second MMTF team with two doctors and three volunteers later joined the pioneer team.

The second phase was focused on bringing back the displaced people in the refugee camps to a more permanent settlement, particularly on reconstructing their basic needs and to jump-start household economic activities, particularly in Vakarai, a remote coastal village. Almost all the Vakarai residents were fisherman and dependent on the sea for livelihood, and so needed boats and fishing nets.