FIRE AID member, Women in the Fire Service undertake their first scoping visit to Nepal

Tue 07, Jan, 2020

Following a trip to Lebanon in January 2019, FIRE AID member Women in the Fire Service (WFS) came across an opportunity to attend an International meeting on burn care and prevention at Swansea University. At this event Rojina Shilpakar, a burns surgeon at the Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital in Nepal, delivered a presentation detailing the situation in relation to fire and burns in Nepal and through this an opportunity opened for WFS to visit the area to see if there was any support we could offer.

Jenny Nangle from Lancashire FRS and Caroline Anderson from Devon and Somerset FRS visited Kathmandu accompanying a small team from Devon and Somerset FRS USAR and Community Safety led by John Monaghan. Through John’s contacts from multiple operational support trips to Nepal they were introduced to senior Rotarians, businessmen and women in the city who were involved in community projects and who were keen to help where they could. Among many fascinating people, Jenny and Caroline were privileged to meet Lakpa Phuti Sherpa who is the Chairwoman of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation in Kathmandu who was one of the porters for Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali women to climb Mount Everest. Nepal is sandwiched between India and China with the Himalayas as an impressive backdrop. Being of mainly Hindu religion there are many ancient and sacred temples and monuments, many incredibly still standing after the devastating earthquake of 2015.

Jenny and Caroline stayed at the Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital where Rojina is head surgeon, a vital general hospital on the edge of Kathmandu which specialises in burns, plastic surgery and reconstruction. During their stay they were able to speak with the surgeons, doctors and nurses at the hospital and learn about the issues surrounding the burn injuries which are mostly to women and children due to traditional open fire cooking methods and loose clothing such as sarees. Due to the remote location of many of the villages there are no roads so medical help is sometimes 2 or 3 days walk away and many homes don’t have electricity or running water, such basic necessities we take for granted. Medical care is not free in Nepal so many try to go without help as they don’t have the money to pay for treatment. The incredible staff at the hospital travel to the most remote areas of Nepal up to 4 times a year with “pop up hospitals” where they deliver surgery and treatment free of charge to those rural communities who desperately need it.

While at the hospital Jenny Nangle was able to put her fire protection experience to good effect by carrying out a full fire safety check on the hospital highlighting risks and delivering much needed advice and guidance on fire detection and firefighting media to the hospital staff. The WFS team also presented their findings and recommendations and held discussions with the staff in relation to a fire and burns prevention education programme, similar to that already delivered in Lebanon. It is hoped that in collaboration with the hospital, the Ministry of Health in Nepal and other NGO’s further opportunities will arise for the WFS to support in the delivery of such projects to medical staff, schools and support agencies to be cascaded to vulnerable women and children in rural communities.

Lastly, a big thank you to SAFE South West for their grant in support of this and other projects.