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Nepalese short of shelter as rains approach, Canonsburg doctors say |

Nepalese short of shelter as rains approach, Canonsburg doctors say

Brian Bowling
| Saturday, May 30, 2015 9:13 p.m
While volunteers are meeting most of the medical needs of disaster-stricken Nepalese, the country still lacks housing and basic infrastructure that it needs before the monsoon season hits.
Dr. Durga Malepati of Canonsburg treats a baby in a remote village in Nepal. She and her husband did a 10-day medical trip to Nepal sponsored by Remote Area Medical, a Rockford, Tenn., nonprofit.
Dr. Vasu Malepati of Canonsburg treats a Nepalese woman with foreign bodies in her ears. He and his wife did a 10-day medical trip to Nepal sponsored by Remote Area Medical, a Rockford, Tenn., nonprofit.
The April 25 earthquake damaged or destroyed more than 130,000 homes and other buildings in Nepal.
During their trip to Nepal, Drs. Durga and Vasu Malepati of Canonsburg brought along toys as well as medicine for the children. Their 10-day trip was sponsored by Remote Area Medical, a Rockford, Tenn., nonprofit.

With the monsoon season approaching, the Nepalese desperately need shelter, but aftershocks from a devastating earthquake April 25 are hindering efforts.

“They need to build houses,” said Dr. Vasu Malepati of Canonsburg. He and his wife, Dr. Durga Malepati, just returned from a 10-day medical trip to Nepal sponsored by the nonprofit Remote Area Medical organization. They work in Monongahela Valley Hospital in Monongahela.

For the most part, volunteers such as themselves are providing enough medical care, but there is a shortage of orthopedic doctors, he said. The main problems are the lack of housing and the shortage of roads.

“There are no roads to villages,” he said. “It’s very difficult to reach the villages.”

A magnitude 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, killing more than 8,200 people and damaging or destroying more than 130,000 homes and buildings. A subsequent 7.3 quake May 12 killed more than 200 people and caused damage.

The Malepatis treated about 600 people during the trip, he said. His wife, a pediatrician, brought along toys and candy for the children.

During the trip, they experienced two strong aftershocks. The first one happened around lunchtime, sending everyone out of the buildings and into the road. The other happened at night, and once again, they ran outside.

Many Nepalese are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and any vibration tends to send them running outside, he said.

“They have trouble sleeping,” he said.

Many Nepalese are putting off rebuilding because of the aftershocks, said Sushil Acharya of Crescent, whose parents live in Nepal.

“They’re living off two rooms. They had seven rooms,” he said.

There’s no point in pouring concrete until the aftershocks die down, he said.

Temporary housing such as tarps and tents keep the rain off your head, but the runoff finds its way to your belongings, he said.

Like a lot of Nepalese, Acharya’s parents are basically living next to their front door, ready to run outside if a quake hits. They have a tent set up and often spend the night in it, he said.

Thursday night, they had two aftershocks that registered 4.0 or higher on the Richter scale, he said.

“Their feeling is that if they sleep deep, and they don’t feel (the aftershock), the house might collapse on them,” Acharya said.

A family vacation he planned for June has turned into a working vacation, Acharya said. Although they will visit his parents, he’ll spend part of his time examining conditions in villages as part of a long-term recovery being funded by donations to Brother’s Brother Foundation, the North Side nonprofit.

The plan is to help rebuild schools and small, two- to three-bed health posts that will benefit the villages.

Chatham University hosted a benefit concert Thursday for Nepal, said Luke Hingson, president of Brother’s Brother.

Another issue with rebuilding is that Nepal has yet to announce building codes and standards for new structures, he said. That’s a common problem with a disaster, with the requirements changing as officials see problems in the early rebuilding efforts.

“Clearly, if you’re going to rebuild a country, you have to do it right, or at least do it better than it was before,” Hingson said.

On the other hand, not knowing the codes they’ll have to meet makes it difficult for relief organizations to estimate how much money they’ll need, he said.

“You can guess, but the guess isn’t perfect,” he said. Brother’s Brother is working with Himalayan HealthCare, a Nepal-based charity, to rebuild at least three to five health clinics and would like to build about 30.

“The only way it’s going to happen is with more money,” Hingson said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Contact him at 412-325-4301 at

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