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Team Rubicon UK – Reflections by David Wiseman

Team Rubicon UK – Reflections by David Wiseman

On April 25, a huge earthquake rocked Nepal leaving thousands dead and millions affected. Much of the population lives in small villages high in the mountains and have been cut off from aid by the unforgiving terrain. The original earthquake was followed by a number of aftershocks causing landslides capable of burying villages and blocking roads.

Just days after the earthquake, two waves of British Army veterans deployed to Nepal in order to support their colleagues from Team Rubicon US who deployed in the immediate aftermath.

Hours after landing in Kathmandu, the first team piled into hardy vehicles to travel four hours north of Kathmandu in the Sindhupalchok district, 15km from the border with Tibet. The team established a forward operating base down in the valley where US medical professionals set up a clinic for those able to travel down and receive care from the dozens of surrounding villages. The base was also an area where food and shelter could be distributed to those seeking help.

A smaller team was instructed to climb the steep valley sides to reach the nearby villages. They were to provide medical assistance to those too badly hurt to make the difficult journey to the base camp, to inform the population of the help available in the valley and to carry up small amounts of food; as much as they could carry over the punishing terrain.

Upon reaching the villages, hundreds of metres above the valley floor, it was immediately evident that the devastation was absolute. Every home was completely uninhabitable; either flattened or so badly damaged as to be unthinkably perilous to occupy.

In each village, the primary focus was health care assessment and immediate medical provision for those who needed it most. The majority of cases were follow up care from injuries sustained during the quake including wound care, tetanus shots and setting two broken bones. Due to the unsanitary living conditions in which the people now found themselves, outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting were also common, especially among the youngsters.

The team were able to carry only small amounts of food up the mountain to distribute but were sure to engage with leaders in the community for fair distribution. Despite wanting to do more, the team was happy to be sure that every child across five villages had at least one meal inside them.

The TR UK team has been welcomed and fully integrated within Operation TENZING with elements separating to join different missions across Nepal. Some veterans remained in Kathmandu to assist with the coordination and control of people and resources whilst liaising with the Nepalese and NGO authorities. Others have found themselves supporting the quest for intelligence gathering by utilising technology including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and more yet have been involved in supply convoys with truckloads of food, shelter and medical supplies to remote parts of the Gorkha region.

The success of these missions has been facilitated by the fact that the TR UK team is fortunate to include five veterans from the Brigade of Ghurkas. Their linguistic capability and local cultural understanding has proved invaluable. For these former soldiers, this deployment has been particularly meaningful.

It is evident that the immediate response from the quake is now culminating and the situation is moving into the recovery phase. This is becoming a race against time as the monsoon season will start in a matter of weeks. The monsoons will cut many people off from support as the roads that are already treacherous become impassable and those without shelter will be dangerously exposed to the elements.

There is so much to do to get this country back on its feet after this terrible disaster and TR is proud to be supporting the people of Nepal in this mission.

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