Red Cross volunteers save lives during Nepal political unrest
28 April 2006
by Khem Aryal

A young boy, who was hurt during the clashes in Kathmandu, Nepal (April 2006), receives first aid from Red Cross doctors and volunteers. (Courtesy: IFRC)A young boy, who was hurt during the clashes in Kathmandu, Nepal (April 2006), receives first aid from Red Cross doctors and volunteers. (Courtesy: IFRC)
Kathmandu, Nepal: Life is returning to normal on the streets of Kathmandu following weeks of political unrest and opposition demonstrations in Nepal. Smiles have replaced angry faces, stores have reopened and traffic is flowing again – a far cry from the violent clashes that virtually paralysed the capital throughout the month of April, causing food shortages and prompting government-imposed curfews.

Since 6 April, the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) has helped save many lives by providing emergency medical assistance to over 2,000 people, who were hurt during demonstrations in the Kathmandu Valley.

“We followed the footprints of blood and treated the injured persons," says Sudarshan Adhikari, one of the volunteers deployed by the NRCS to respond to injuries resulting from clashes between police and demonstrators in the Kathmandu suburb of Gongabu on 11 April.

Hundreds of people were injured during that incident alone. Red Cross volunteers treated many of the injured, giving first aid to demonstrators, security forces and journalists. Dozens of people were transported to Red Cross camps set up to deal with the wounded. Others who were too afraid to leave their homes in search of health care, were given assistance by volunteers following bloody footprints door-to-door and offering help to the injured.

During the demonstrations, the NRCS also transported almost 300 people to hospitals and provided crucial transportation services at a time when public transport workers were on strike.

“The first aid volunteers have primarily treated patients with head wounds, bleeding, gun-shots, fractures, dislocations and scratches,” says Bipin Prasad Dhakal, head of the first aid section of the NRCS. “Their services have saved the lives of hundreds of people.”

Badri Sigdel, a demonstrator who fractured his leg while fighting with police, says he “would not have known what to do” if the Red Cross hadn’t brought him to hospital. Meanwhile, Sajan Ray says volunteers saved the life of his brother, Rajan, who suffered serious intestinal damage after being shot in the stomach.

Dr Manohar Lal Shrestha of the Tribhuwan University Teaching Hospital agrees that Red Cross volunteers provided life-saving assistance during the demonstrations. “The doctors in Nepal are not accustomed to treating patients on-the-spot,” said Lal Shrestha. “The volunteers managed to prevent bleeding and give first aid, as well as conduct triage, which made our jobs easier and allowed us to be more efficient in providing medical care.”

During the weeks of political unrest, the Nepal Red Cross Society deployed six fist aid teams per day in the areas that were most likely to be affected by big demonstrations, including Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Khaktapur and Kirtipur. The district Red Cross branches in Arghakhachi, Baglung, Banke, Kaski, Tanahun, Jumla, Rupandehi, Kapilvastu, Jhapa, Tehrathum and Bardiya also provided assistance.

The NRCS has been offering first aid services during disasters and other emergencies as an impartial and neutral humanitarian organization since its inception in 1963. As part of its emergency preparedness activities, the NRCS has formed an alert group at its headquarters, which can be deployed immediately. The Red Cross is also prepared to provide first aid at mass gatherings, public meetings, festivals and sporting events.
(Khem Aryal works with the Nepal Red Cross Society in Kathmandu.)

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