The Invisible Wounds of Earthquake Survivors

by Jaya Vadlamudi, International Medical Corps

Nearly 9,000 people lost their lives due to the earthquakes in Nepal and almost 17,000 were left physically injured. However International Medical Corps’ teams in Nepal are finding that the emotional and psychosocial effects of the earthquakes are even more extensive and immeasurable. Click on the white arrow on the right side of the photo below to read the full story.

  • As hundreds of aftershocks have hit the devastated country since the initial 7.8 and 7.3 earthquakes in April and May respectively, and still continue to rattle nerves and already damaged homes and buildings, the people of Nepal are noticeably on edge. Many families living in tents or damaged structures are in fear of future earthquakes as well as of the rapidly approaching monsoon season, as they struggle to have their basic needs met and to feel safe once again. The mental health and psychosocial needs of those affected by the Nepal disaster will require a comprehensive and immediate response from the international community.
  • This day in Gorkha, the epicenter of the first earthquake, Claire Whitney, International Medical Corps’ Mental Health Coordinator, gathers a group of community members of Bansing Gau, a village greatly affected by the earthquakes. Alongside the medical staff providing care for issues including wounds, skin infections and upper respiratory infections, Claire tends to the invisible ailments following the earthquakes. Just one hour of listening to the fears and anxieties of the local people of this community reveals the critical need to assist affected communities in being able to address the core stressors they are facing, and to foster support and resilience on individual, family, and community levels.
  • Along with Gokarna Duwadi of Integrated Community Development Campaign (ICDC) Nepal, a local organization dedicated to community development and the provision of psychosocial support, Claire provides a safe space for community members to share their experiences and learn valuable coping techniques following the earthquakes.
  • Gorkana translates as Claire shares ways that those suffering from the aftermath of the disaster can support each other with the concerns and fears they are facing, and move forward together. As this community lost most of its livestock to landslides, the main source of currency used to barter with other villages for food, many in the group share their fears that there won’t be enough food for their families to make it through the upcoming monsoon season. Others share how they cannot sleep or are having nightmares and that their children are not able to relax and play as normal due to the relentless aftershocks.
  • Claire and Gokarna relay ways that community members can cope with their stress and anxiety, including relaxation techniques, meditation, and the therapeutic effects of sharing their experiences with others and relying on the community for support. In addition to providing a safe space for community members to interact and share, International Medical Corps is also training local First Responders on Psychological First Aid. To date, we have trained 329 Nepali nationals across three districts. Says Claire, “Being a first responder means bearing witness to the suffering that ensues in the wake of an emergency, being there in solidarity with the community, and offering support so that those affected know that they are not alone.”

REPORT: Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Situation Assessment

Read more about our Mental Health response in Nepal. Click here >