On April 25, 2015, Nepal and its people experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. On May 12, another major earthquake of 7.2 magnitude hit the country. In practice, his means that millions of Nepalis have lived and died under the weight of falling buildings, landslides, floods, hunger, and homelessness brought about by massive seismic shifts across the Himalayan belt. Most will refer to this as an earthquake, singular. But this is no singular disaster. The country has experienced more than 300 seismic events since April 25, 2015, and nearly 9000 people died as a direct result of the two most major earthquakes.
For most of Nepal’s approximately 30 million people, living uncertainty is old hat. Consider the legacies of civil war (1996-2006) followed by a decade of political instability and current struggles to write a viable constitution. But the spring of 2015 has cracked open new forms of vulnerability for most Nepalis. These quakes have caused enormous destruction to the nation’s rich cultural heritage, in the Kathmandu Valley and beyond. The countryside has experienced vast devastation. More than half a million homes have been destroyed or are precariously habitable. This equates to about 2.5 million internally displaced. More than 3,500 schools have been destroyed and nearly as many health posts. There has been widespread damage to highways and road networks; glacial lakes are in danger of bursting; landslides are a constant threat, and have continued to wipe out settlements; many hydroelectric dams have been damaged; water borne illness and other public health challenges loom as monsoon has arrived. Even so, Nepalis are showing incredible resilience, creativity, and deep commitments to helping each other through this suffering.
This project – in the context of ANTH 55: Anthropology of Global Health – explores the human impacts of these disasters by asking students to engage in collective research and writing of case studies focused on specific areas of inquiry related to the earthquake.
The assumption of this project is not that students will become “experts” either on Nepal or on the health effects of earthquakes, but that they will amass sufficient knowledge about their area of inquiry so that they can contribute to an effort to expand knowledge and understanding of this event to others, and expand in the process their own conceptualization of what “global health” is, where and how it occurs, and how it links to many other aspects of human life.