Life in Nepal should come back to routine as soon as possible: Israel’s Ambassador to Nepal,Yaron Mayer tells The Oslo Times
After The Gorkha Earthquake which struck Nepal on April 25, 2015, Israel Defense Force (IDF) brought with them not just rescue workers but relief workers, highly qualified medical personnel and an entire hospital with to help the people of Nepal. The Ambassador of Israel to Nepal Yaron Mayer, in an exclusive interview with Oslo Times International News Network’s, Chief International Correspondent Prabalta Rijal spoke about the hospital, its facilities and the steps Nepal should now take to meet the upcoming future challenges.
The excerpts below give us an insight into the interesting talk that followed:
TOT: Mr. Ambassador, thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you despite your busy schedule. Before we start will you tell us a little about yourself?
Mayer: My name is Yaron Mayer. I am the 18th ambassador of Israel to Nepal. We have diplomatic relations with Nepal for 55 years, and we share a very strong and friendly relationship with Nepal. I am a career diplomat and before coming here I was in Myanmar.
TOT: ‘The Gorkha Quake’ has been devastating, and Nepal has received huge support from countries around the World, however, Israel took the opportunity to help Nepal in a slightly different manner, can you tell us a little about the Field Hospital? What made you decide to actually establish it?
Mayer: You were here, you observed what happened. I was here too, and after getting out of my house that day I attempted to carry out rescue works
A business complex in Gongabu, Kathmandu that completely collapsed crushing a taxi on April 25. Photo by Gopen Rai for TOT
with some Israeli citizens. I knew it wasn’t an ordinary quake, so, while examining the damage I called our office in Jerusalem and told them that we have to do something as a devastating earthquake has shaken Nepal.
In the meantime, I had already spoken to the local authorities here and I had received information that we need medicine, health facilities during the initial rescue, so rather than having a rescue team coming here we decided to support the relief efforts as there were rescue teams coming to Nepal from different parts of the world to help get people out of the rubbles.
This is what prompted us to fly the field hospital down to Kathmandu. If you take a look at this hospital you realize it is well equipped to handle all kinds of emergency cases. We didn’t need to build a hospital from scratch, we already had the personnel and the equipment and we just brought it down to Nepal.
The American Ambassador to Nepal Peter W Bodde, surveying the makeshift Israel Health Camp in the open field of Chhauni Hospital on Friday. Photo: Gopen Rai for The Oslo Times.
This is a field hospital. It is not something that had to be built for this mission, we already had these facilities. All we needed to do was to get the medical personnel ready for the mission. And of course, this was not the first time we had arranged such a mission, and the medical personnel that came here have more experience than me, as they have been to places like Haiti, Philippines, and Turkey, for relief works. You know, I also felt that Israeli medicine, Israeli technology, doctors, expertise, and knowledge will be needed here. The team that has come to Nepal is very experienced, however, once we got the personnel ready the next most important thing was to locate the spot. Then we had discussions with the army and other people who have experience in Nepal from our country, and some of the doctors who have been here before. Because of our close coordination with the army and the availability of a military hospital next door, we decided to choose this location. There were a few other options as well, but as a whole due to the logistics and the kind space we were looking for this was the perfect choice, you can see for yourself, you need a big area and space. The beauty about this hospital is that it’s totally independent. Once you come here you realize they have everything. They have brought their own generators, water, medicines and medical personnel. Despite this, we still needed a large number of local volunteers. This hospital was functional by 9 am on Tuesday 28 April, just three days after the first earthquake. You have a
A rescue helicopter brings earthquake victim from the Dhading District to the IDF Hospital in the open field of Chhauni Hospital, Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo by Gopen Rai for TOT.
facilities here like a huge field space for the hospital to be set up, helipad, so patients could be brought and so forth. This has also been an opportunity for us to collaborate closely with the Nepali Army, and doctors were able to help with surgeries in the Nepal Army hospital, even though we had two operation theaters here. So, this whole operation is about working together at a time of grave crisis. We have had a very good alliance with the Nepal Army and it’s still going on. This was very important because this hospital is temporary and it won’t be here forever so we need to transfer patients who are still recovering to the Army hospital.
TOT: The quake has been traumatizing, especially for children whose lives are now in peril as so many of them have lost either one or both their parents to the quake and over thousands have been left homeless, what step do you think Nepal should now take to secure the future of
its people especially that of the homeless children?
Children inside the Pediatric ward of Israel’s makeshift hospital. Photo by Gopen Rai for TOT
Mayer: Well, you know the number of victims is very high and of course the number of the homeless people as well has risen, because a shocking number of houses as many as half a million homes were destroyed. I am not talking just about Kathmandu, but also about villages. Children have to be taken care of. Whoever is taking care of them be from the government side or be it social organizations and NGOs, Nepal will receive help as many of its friends are willing to help Nepal as soon as possible.. We also have a special team of clowns here, have you seen them? These clowns are very good for the hospital because it helps bring smile to the faces of the victims especially young children. Medical clowns help people recover from trauma and give them a chance to smile. Smiling is important because it helps people feel good about themselves and get over their grief and look forward to the future. It helps them see that yes, we have been hit by a tragedy but we are also very lucky to survive. We have to find a way to continue to unite and work together as there is a vast and number of good energy. I also met the Prime Minister of Nepal. Sushil Koirala. He too sounded very optimistic. He told me–” we will come out of this tragedy. We will rebuild. We will be ready to unite and understand that we have to work together for our future.” This message of solidarity is very important. Despite this,life will of course have to come back to routine as fast as possible, school should start as soon as possible people should start
People inside tents made out of plastic and umbrellas at Tine Ghare, Kathmandu, after the quake on April 25. Photo: Prabalta Rijal/TOT
going back home—even if it’s a temporary home, but children need to go back to homeand to school soon. Those who have been orphaned should receieve immediate attention, they can either be put into an orphanage or maybe they could live with their relatives. I think that the international community is willing and ready to support Nepal. I am sure many countries will help because Nepal has many friends around the World. We believe Nepalis are strong and they will come out of it all.
The Dream Doctors. Photo by Gopen Rai for The Oslo Times
We are also traumatized. As this is a very serious situation and we have decided to bring in a psycho-social doctors, who will train the trainers and social workers here in Kathmandu and other locations before reaching out to peoplein the most affected rgions of the country to help people come out of this traumatic experience. So,we are also already planning to bring the team from Israel and work with the Ministry of Health and population to train social workers and government personnel helping out in the rural regions, on how to treat trauma patients effectively. In Israel we have the experts in this sector, because.unfortunately the situation there is vulnerable,.so we have tackled bitter experiences and traumas.So, we understand how important it is to tackle Trauma,and we have specialists we would also like to share our expertise in this situation.
I would now like to ask you a personal question, if that is okay. What was your initial reaction when the Earthquake hit Kathmandu, were you in Kathmandu at that time?
I was at home with my wife and son. My son was on his bed and I was on mine.Luckily I had just come home just a few minutes before the quake struck
Ambassador Mayer, on Friday, telling envoys from the US, Brazil, and the EU how the Field Hospital is operating. Photo by Gopen Rai for TOT
Kathmandu. I didn’t need more than a split-second to understand -what was happening. We were on the second floor and I just ran to grab my son anddashed out of the room while my wife joined us from another room, we were near the steps but were unable to climb down the stairs and we just stood there holing on to a pillar. Everything around us was shaking, if we hadnt held on to the pillar we wouldnt have been able to stand. We could see things around us fall, the cupboard door flwe open and things started falling out of it, the photos hanging on the wall crashed onto the floor as, we just stood there waiting for it to subside and prayed.
My son is just one and a half-years-old and I held him in my arms and dashed out as soon as the shaking seized a little, my wife was able to notice the damage it had caused, we were petrified by the end of it, the time that had seemed like forever, now I know was just about 40-45 seconds
Damage caused by the Gorkha Quake, inside a business Complex in Kathmandu. Photo: Prabalta Rijal/TOT
We went to an open space not far from the house and just sat there for sometime, one hour or may be two,as we could still feel the aftershocks, which are still going off. We have been in Nepal for 8 months and talks of a high probablity of a major earth quake was always in the air, but it was still not something we had never expected, didn’t really think it would happen. When it first happened,we didn’t know the details, but from my personal experience I could immediately tell that this earthquake was well over 7 rihcter scale maybe 7,3 and above. Later,I realized that it was around 7.9 rihcter scale and we were lucky that my house survived the heavy jolts.
TOT: Apart from the relief efforts that are going on right now and the short term courses and a film festival, how has Israel‘s Embassy been involved in Nepal over the years?
Mayer: This is, our 55th year of cooperation and friendship with Nepal. This is a very strong and friendly relation and Israel feels very close towards Nepal as Nepal was the first country in this region recognize Israel as a state and to have relations with us. Over the years we have had different types of projects and we feel that we can collaborate in the field of agriculture. Right now more than 500 students studying Agriculture from Nepal, some of them have from from villages.. We have a strong bond. And we are also now talking about incorporating a caregivers agreement , so caregivers from Nepal can go and work in Israel. Our doctors who have come to Nepal before and served at almost every major hospital in Kathmandu – Nepal needs more qualified doctors, for example we have an Israeli doctor here he speaks very good Nepali, he has been living here for years. Right now even after this huge earthquake, very senior doctors in Nepal are training for post-traumatic situations in Israel. I just spoke to one of them, she said when it happened she called her husband to come back. Buthe said no, it is important for Nepal that I complete the training and then come back. We have a beeline of tourists coming here, they like Nepal and travelling here. In this tragedy, 200 of our citizens were trapped in the
Ambassador Mayer, handing out Certificates to the Medical Team for their efforts in Nepal,during the closing ceremony of the Hospital on Sunday. Photo by Gopen Rai for TOT
mountains, in Langtang, Everest in Annapurana and so on. Initially we decide to go for the rescue effort to rescue all our citizens. We made an enormous effort and we were able to rescue all our citizens, however we lost one of them. The others are safe and many of them have already been evacuated and sent back home.
TOT: After the Haiti experience, where relief funds went into the pockets of corrupt politicians, what lessons can Nepal learn, and how do you think the funds that have been funneled into Nepal can be used efficiently?
Mayer: Well, the coordination is very important because there are people who need it and the government authorities must assure that the relief that arrives Nepal will reach the needed people. In Haiti I was not here, but this type of hospital had been setup there as well. We know that what we are trying to do is to reach out to the people and we did it there as well and I think there are good people everywhere.
Israel’s Ambassador to Nepal Yaron Mayer(Center) with American Envoy to Nepal Peter W. Bodde (Right), Brazilian Ambassador Maria Teressa Mesquita Pessoa (Right) and Head of Delegation of the European Union Delegation to Nepal Renjse Teerink (left) at the IDF field hospital in Kathmandu.Photo by Gopen Rai for TOT
Let’s not underline corruption in the work places. I believe that the people of Nepal and the authorities must stand together through the entire process of re-building,restructuring and rehabilitation. It’s also very important besides getting the international experts to come and assist and help during this process because this kind of tragedy is phenomenally – big, no country can handle it all alone. You know the reconstruction and the rehabilitation effort which have been thought about, has already started in some places. It would be good if others are also involved, Nepal has many friends who are willing to help.
TOT: My next question is a question that we ask all our guests, could you tell us what Human Rights mean to you? Mayer: Human beings where ever they are, they are equal they have different kinds of rights, they have the rights to be respected, they have the right to say what they want, to think what they want and to live in honor and according to their own beliefs and in harmony. Education is very important, livelihood is very important, but beliefs are not something that can be imposed, rights in a way is relative to each country. People should be able to live with dignity and as equals.
TOT: Finally, is there anything that you would like to say to our global readers?
It is an honor to be interviewed by The Oslo Times, I would like to take this opportunity to call on the readers to think about what they can do for others in terms of respect and try to live in peace with each other. I come from a region where peace unfortunately is a little bit distant, people are losing their hope, but human beings are human beings where ever they are. We should jointly work against extremism and radicalism and those who are trying to use hatred to bring differences between the people, I wish for peace among all the people of the world Israel in Nepal, a Unique Approach to Relief:
The Israeli Defense Force Field Hospital and the relief crew who helped treat over 1,500 patients wrapped up their mission in Nepal and headed back to Israel on Monday. The hospital which had been set-up at the wake of the Gorkha Earth quake, which has left Nepal in perils, was established at a time when
A patient inside the makeshift ICU (Intensive Care Unit) of Israel Health Camp in the open field of Chhauni Hospital on Friday. Photo: Gopen Rai for The Oslo Times.
the people of Nepal required immediate medical attention. Israel came to Nepal’s rescue and established a temporary relief hospital at the army grounds in Chhauni, Kathmandu, in a matter of just two days after the quake. The Field hospital that had been setup inside tents by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), has provided quake victims with immediate medical attention, as the facility consists of medical and logistic personnel from Israel, who have the ability to perform serious and highly sophisticated surgeries, emergency services, pediatric department, obstetric department, orthopedic department, full-fledged diagnostic imaging system and laboratory. Complete with an Internal medicine department, pediatric, gynecology, ophthalmology, cataract and general medicinal services and ICU, this one of the kind relief hospital consisted of well trained and highly experienced medical rescue and trauma team, who had arrived in Kathmandu just 48 hours after the initial quake. According to the Israeli authorities a total of 267 trained personnel including 40 specialists, 120 medical staff members and a Nepali doctor, had flown into Nepal for this very purpose. The Oslo Times International News Network had the privilege of visiting this unique hospital and talking to the doctors and relatives of the patients who had been admitted there. “My wife is still unconscious it has been nine day’s since they brought her
An earthquake victim seats on the wheel chair outside the makeshift clinic of Israel Health Camp in the open field of Chhauni Hospital on Friday.Photo by Gopen Rai for The Oslo Times.
here, the doctors here are doing a great job, I don’t think she would have survived if it wasn’t for the care they are giving her,” said an old man, waiting alone on a bench near the hospital entrance. His wife was later transferred to the army hospital and is doing better now. Like him, family members of other quake victims could be seen waiting on their loved ones. The establishment of the temporary hospital has provided victims of the quake with free medical services and the immediate care they require.
The Dream Doctor’s Project
Apart from Doctors and Emergency medical care givers, five medical clowns have also come to Nepal to brighten the environment at hospitals. The Five clowns had arrived in Kathmandu on May 3 and will be in town for another week, for the sole purpose of easing trauma and reducing pain and anxiety among children. During their stay, the medical clowns will also visit various communities and hospitals in the quake affected areas of the country.
Dream Doctor Nimrod Eisenberg, cheering up a child at the field hospital in Chhauni. Photo Courtesy: Dream Doctors
While talking to the Oslo Times International News Network the Dream Doctor’s like they call themselves, stated that it was good to see smiles on the faces of the victims, as it helps ease their trauma. According to them helping children and other victims forget about their woes for a while, helps them recover sooner from the traumatic experience that has left approximately 1.7 million children homeless. Till date the quake has left over 8,000 people dead and over 18,000 people injured and an estimated 65,000 people have been displaced after half-a-million homes were destroyed after the quake.
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