When Sujeeta Silwal left Nepal in 2002 to go to college in America, her parents and brother remained at home in Kathmandu, the South Asian country’s capital. On April 25, she was terrified as she saw footage of the devastation from a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that has claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people and injured more than 10,000.
Silwal, who conducts kidney research for BWH’s Physiologic Research Division in the Department of Radiology, finally got through to her family and learned that they were safe but have been living outside in the aftermath of the earthquake.
“It’s not safe to go back inside because of the aftershocks,” she said.
Silwal is now trying to help those in Nepal who have been displaced and need assistance.
“Nepal was already a poor country, and now this disaster has brought even more challenges and health issues,” she said.
Silwal feels a responsibility to her native country and the friends and family she left behind to help them regain safety and ensure they have basic supplies, such as food and water.
Two other members of the BWH community were at a hospital in Achham, Nepal, about 200 miles from Kathmandu, at the time of the earthquake. While the hospital felt the earthquake, no one was injured and no damages were reported there. Duncan Maru, MD, PhD, and Dan Schwarz, MD, MPH, both of the Division of Global Health Equity, were working with a partner organization of the division called Possible. The nonprofit has provided high-quality, low-cost care to more than 225,000 patients through a public-private partnership with the Nepali government. Following the earthquake, both Maru and Schwarz headed to Kathmandu to assist in relief efforts.
Scott Halliday, a research assistant in the Division of Global Health Equity and impact project manager for Possible, is working on communications and channeling support between U.S. and Nepal-based efforts. Schwarz’s twin brother, Ryan Schwarz, MD, MBA, of the Division of Global Health Equity, has also been working closely with Possible on logistics and coordination of resources.
The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s (HHI) Kobo Toolkit, a real-time data collection and sharing system hosted by HHI and BWH, is the preferred data collection tool for the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to coordinate data collection and sharing across NGOs. HHI is the humanitarian arm of Harvard University, founded in 2005 by BWH physician Michael VanRooyen, MD, MPH, interim chair of BWH’s Department of Emergency Medicine.
“Quickly collecting reliable information in a humanitarian crisis is a critical link to saving lives,” said VanRooyen.
HHI is also working with the Crisis Mappers Network to establish a map of needs in the region.
“I am continually inspired by the compassion of our Brigham community, particularly in times of need,” said BWHC President Betsy Nabel, MD. “Other members of our Brigham community are helping to bolster relief efforts from the United States. This is a monumental task, and I ask that you keep your colleagues, as well as the people of Nepal, in your thoughts and prayers.”
How to help
VanRooyen is directing anyone interested in supporting relief efforts in Nepal to the Himalayan Rescue Association.
“This is a small, local and very impactful organization,” he said. “They are excellent and will be there helping long after the crisis.”
Silwal has set up an online website for giving through Crowdrise called “Rebuild a Stronger Nepal.”
“I come from a country where we speak about karma, and I have had a very fortunate life,” she said. “I want to help those who are now in need.”
The American Nepal Medical Foundation is committed to strengthening the health care infrastructure of Nepal, and is leveraging its infrastructure to bring relief to earthquake victims.
The International Committee for The Red Cross has a team engaged in emergency response, in partnership with the Nepali Red Cross.
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is preparing two cargo flights with a combined 120 tons of humanitarian supplies for urgent airlift to Kathmandu for the nearly 1 million children in need of food, housing and other urgent relief.
Employees are encouraged to reach out to colleagues who have a connection to Nepal through family, loved ones or personal experience and remind them of resources that are available to them through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
“I hope our Brigham community can be a source of strength and support for those who have been impacted by this devastating disaster,” said Nabel.