Readers of The Indian Express from across the country and abroad — schoolchildren dipping into their pocket money to companies mobilising a day’s wages to retired Army personnel sharing their pension — responded to the newspaper’s call for help to Nepal after the devastating April 2015 earthquake. This evening, in Kathmandu, their donations — constituting The Indian Express Citizens’ Relief Fund — resulted in the purchase of critical medical equipment worth Nepal Rs 1.2 crore for hospitals in some of the worst-hit areas.
Addressing a distinguished gathering in Kathmandu where he accepted the medical equipment from a team of The Indian Express, Nepal Health Minister Gagan Thapa said: “Healthcare is key to Nepal’s reconstruction effort and the government values any support in this direction. I assure you whatever support we get, and we hope to get more, will reach the right people. We will make best use of it.”
“We have started rebuilding houses and the chief of the NRA (National Reconstruction Authority) is here. Such support is very encouraging and means a lot to us. I thank The Indian Express Citizen’s Relief Fund, The Indian Express and its readers on behalf of the Government of Nepal, the Ministry of Health and the people affected by the earthquake,” Thapa said.
Underlining that healthcare remains a key concern and priority for Nepal as it struggles to overcome challenges in the reconstruction effort, Thapa appealed for “any support in this direction” and assured that his ministry would ensure “it reaches the right people”.
Healthcare, the lack of it, always an area of concern, was dealt a severe blow when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal, leaving an estimated 9,000 people dead, 22,000 injured and more than 4 million homeless.
The Health Minister received a range of medical equipment: from X-ray machines to infant radiant warmers to operation theatre tables. These have been earmarked for use in hospitals in the districts of Sindhupalchok, Rasuwa and Nuwakot, among the worst-hit by the earthquake.
“This contribution is significant. We definitely need more such assistance. It’s not about money. It is testimony to your generosity and support and reinforces not just government-to-government contact between our two countries but, more importantly, the people-to-people contact,” Thapa said as he handed over the equipment to representatives of the hospitals.
Its infrastructure devastated and the economy ruined, Nepal has been trying to pick up the pieces, counting on the $4-billion international aid pledged in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. But officials say that may not be enough for the reconstruction effort.
The country’s turbulent transition to democracy, following a peace deal in 2006 that ended a decade-long Maoist insurgency and 240 years of kingship, took a big step forward Sunday when it held its first local body polls in two decades. The two-phase civic polls — the second phase will be held a month from now — are crucial to the rebuilding exercise since elected representatives are expected to facilitate and expedite delivery of basic services including healthcare.