In the immediate aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in April and May this year, the swift action by the Government of Nepal, the Nepalese Army and the indomitable spirit of the people of Nepal, saved many lives. Within hours the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) held vital meetings and our team of advisors had organised themselves and others at the MoHP to begin getting priority supplies and equipment to health centres and affected communities. Initially operating from tents, they supported the management of health sector services, coordinating information within the Health Emergency Operations Centre, providing data collection tools for disease surveillance, helping to prevent stock outs of essential supplies, and producing daily situation updates to ensure key decision makers had accurate district level data.
Our infrastructure advisors carried out assessments on building safety - this task continues, along with the planning and supervision of repairs and reconstruction and responding to numerous information needs from the many agencies seeking to provide effective support.
The team have since restored their operations from within the MoHP and Options has been contracted by DFID to extend its vital role in the recovery and transition phase. Working across the 14 most affected districts, the team are supervising infrastructure master plans, providing construction guidance to ensure designs, specifications and proposed locations are appropriate for the health service requirements, and have enabled MoHP to approve 126 new health facilities and for shorter term prefabricated buildings, many of which are now being prepared for construction.
From bases in three severely affected districts, our district teams are working with District Health Officers to support the coordination, planning and start-up of maternal health services and family planning, and our NGO partners are providing much needed specialist services in psychosocial support and physical rehabilitation to the many injured and traumatised people.
Across the 14 worst affected districts, our advisors have provided mentoring support to maintain key Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care services (CEONC) as the operation of temporary camps on a 24 hour basis begins to phase down. Social Service Units, that we had helped to establish during the previous and ongoing health system strengthening programmes, have been providing key services around the clock for earthquake survivors. We are now working the MoHP and partners such as UNFPA to ensure clinical protocols on Gender-Based Violence also encapsulate changes since the earthquake and include the use of mobile health camps and short-term shelter homes for new mothers and those at the delivery stage. With partner support the objective of restoring CEONC is close to being achieved in 14 sites and in key hospitals.
As the rainy season continues, progress has been hindered by landslides as well as civil disturbances. The flexibility of all our team’s support and our consortium’s partners is highly valued in the face of this adaptable situation. Their focus is on restoring quality health services and affected health systems for the thousands of affected people while ensuring this recovery and transition phase will enable Nepal to ‘build back better’ its health system.