While the history of Nepal is rich in historical and cultural traditions, its geological history is just as important. With recent Earthquakes bringing down buildings and Unesco World Heritage Sites alike, it’s important to look at how these people cope mentally, and physically after such a trauma.
Nepal is located at the north-eastern tip of the Indian Peninsula, and is situated on the border of two tectonic plates. With the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates almost cutting the country in half, Nepal has been victim to earthquakes since antiquity.
The first recorded earthquake in Nepal was on June 7th, 1255 AD reaching a 7.7 on the Richter scale. (Check Mail) According to historical records, one third of the population was completely decimated, including their leader. (Check Mail) Since this very early beginning, 13 earthquakes have hit the region. However, recently we have seen two earthquakes that have caused catastrophic damage, both reaching above a 7 on the Richter Scale in April and May.
To see the amazing clean-up efforts, along with the heartbreak of the loss of loved ones, it’s important to look at how the natural world interacts with the emotional world of its inhabitants. Looking at these two earthquakes we see a major psychologically damaging theme: grief. With the importance of healing in mind rescue efforts are focused on safety for its inhabitants and what experts call the “mind-body connection”. (NIH)
This connection plays an important role in healing both your physical and mental state after a tragedy. With the stress and trauma associated with an earthquake, many questions arise for victims that add to the impact of the natural disaster. By asking questions like, “Why me?” and “Why did it have to be them?”, this mental stress adds to the possible physical injuries victims could have endured. Seeking available professional health services, reaching out to family members, and maintaining as much normalcy as possible, are all ways these victims can reduce stress. However, if victims are unable to reduce their stress, many more complications could set in. According to the National Institute of Health, not only can stress reduce your immune system and delay healing time, your lungs are directly affected. This added risk posed to the lungs of earthquake survivors, allows for a deadly condition to develop that you just often cannot see.
With all of the dust and spores released from broken buildings, medical professionals have realized that the earthquake makes these particles smaller. With their diminished size, they are easier to move into the lungs. The concern now that I feel is not being addressed in Nepal is the possibility for the condition known as Coccidioidomycosis. Last notably seen in the California earthquake in 1994, this mixture of aerosolized concrete ash and fungal spores in the air causes impaired lung function and difficulty treating the fungal infection. As seen in the picture above the dust and material in the air pose a great risk to both victims and rescuers alike. To avoid injury and infection, inhabitants of the area during clean up should look into these suggestions:
-During clean up events, wear a mask that can filter particles down to the size of one micron.
-For those with already impaired lung function, consider wearing a mask while outside in general, or in cases with severe respiratory distress patients, consider wearing a respirator to filter the air more than a mask might while protecting the face and airways.
-In the event of wind or other inadvertent action that produces dusty winds, it is best to try to get anything over your face, even if it is just part of your t-shirt or scarf.
This mask, known as an N-95 or N-97, would work for most people, including those with prior respiratory issues. The higher the number the more the mask is able to filter. However it is always advised to check with a doctor regarding any and all health concerns.
During emotionally traumatic times, it is important to practice an increase of self-care and coping skills. By following and acting on your physical and mental needs victims have a higher chance of recovery and maintaining their health.
This article was written by Katie Moore, a writer for dusk magazine.