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Tigard nonprofit helps establish emergency infrastructure in Nepal

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Local teams trained by Medical Teams International provide first response and transport an injured person to a nearby hospital.

A Tigard nonprofit organization is helping to save lives in Nepal.

Last month, Medical Teams International announced a new partnership with the government of Nepal to help build the country’s emergency medical services infrastructure.

Medical Teams International is the first registered nonprofit organization to initiate emergency medical systems response in the rural areas of Nepal.

Nepal’s mountainous terrain and geographical isolation create challenges in providing access to emergency medical services for communities in rural areas. Nepal is recognized by the United Nations to be one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Eighty percent of its citizens live in remote or rural areas and are disconnected from medical services.

“Basically right now, if someone has a road traffic accident, they really don’t have one person to call,” said regional manager Connie Cummings.

During its three-year pilot program, Medical Teams International will work with local communities to establish an emergency phone number and dispatch system, train first responders to provide immediate, on-scene medical care, and help link together various agencies and entities in the country into a more cohesive system.

They’ll begin their work in the Dhading district before rolling out to other rural communities in Nepal.

Founded in 1979, Medical Teams International engages 2,500 volunteers globally, partnering with experts, governments and agencies around the world on aid, health and development efforts.

In 2015, Medical Teams International identified Nepal for long-term aid efforts and a regional team was set to travel to the country and begin meeting with local partners.

Then, just a week before their flight, a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck the country and killed more than 8,800 people.

“We were well-poised to respond to the earthquake,” said Cummings.

Medical Teams International personnel were among the first on the ground, working with local communities to distribute over 5,000 hygiene kits to prevent the spread of infectious disease.

Continuing to partner with the government and training local communities to carry on the work is foundational to Medical Team International’s long-term aid efforts.

This includes helping communities find long-term, sustainable ways to procure first aid packages, training Nepalese staff to carry out their organizational mission, and empowering local citizens to be proactive in building EMS infrastructure.

“We don’t want to set up anything on our own. We want to be working with the government. Ultimately, we want them to take it over, make it something they own,” said Cummings.