Emergency and humanitarian action

Wheelchair assembly post earthquake in Nepal

Kshetra Gurung
Photo: WHO/J. Swan

Kshetra Gurung is a workshop technician at Nepal’s Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC), a dedicated spinal care facility just outside the Kathmandu valley.

The former occupational therapy assistant, who has worked at the centre since it first opened in 2002, has spent the past two year’s custom-fitting wheelchairs for the facility’s patients.

After Nepal’s 25 April and 12 May earthquakes, Gurung’s workload has increased significantly: SIRC, a project of Spinal Injury Sangha Nepal, scaled up its bed capacity from 51 to 200, and is still accepting referrals from across the country.

Thankfully, Gurung has the technical expertise to cope with this fourfold increase.

“I did basic and intermediate training for wheelchair assembly given by WHO in Pokhara last year and three months of basic prosthetics and orthodics training in Thailand,” he said. “We assemble our wheelchairs according to the WHO guidelines on the provision of manual wheelchairs in less-resourced settings.”

For Gurung, whose workshop is plastered with detailed diagrams of wheelchair design and assembly, the job is, however, greater than simply constructing the machines.

“When we provide a patient with a wheelchair we teach them basic and advanced wheelchair skills – how to use a wheelchair and how to take care of them. We also have a wheelchair follow up program once a year. If they have a problem with their wheelchair they call us and we fix it,” he said.

According to Damodar Adhikari, WHO Nepal’s disability and rehabilitation focal point, this kind of long-term engagement is a critical aspect of meeting post-disaster health care needs.

“After any disaster these services are crucial. If they are not provided, the quality of life for the injured is greatly impacted. In Nepal, we are working closely with the Ministry of Health and Population to ensure that these services are prioritized,” he said.

With facilities such as SIRC, and technicians like Gurung, Nepal’s earthquake-injured are being given the best opportunity to recover and lead mobile lives. Long after the emergency ends, the health care needs of Nepal’s citizens are being secured.