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Brown emergency medicine physician conducts disaster relief work in Nepal following earthquake

GoFundMe page has raised nearly $10,000, Nepalese students support through fundraising

<p>HAPSA Nepal hopes to prepare 40,000 sanitation kits in total —&nbsp;enough for each displaced family.</p><p>Courtesy of Ramu Kharel</p>

HAPSA Nepal hopes to prepare 40,000 sanitation kits in total — enough for each displaced family.

Courtesy of Ramu Kharel

In the wake of this month’s devastating earthquake in Nepal, a Warren Alpert Medical School professor has started a GoFundMe page aiming to raise at least $50,000 for disaster relief work.

Assistant Professor in Emergency Medicine Ramu Kharel began the campaign following a magnitude 6.4 earthquake that displaced over 40,000 families, killed over 150 people and damaged thousands of houses and buildings. Jajarkot — the epicenter of the earthquake — and Western Rukum were the most directly affected districts, according to the World Health Organization.

The funds will go toward sanitation kits that Kharel’s non-profit organization, HAPSA Nepal, works to distribute. The non-profit focuses on strengthening Nepalese health systems. 

Each sanitation kit — which costs $5.50 to make — includes soap, water purifiers, period products, toothbrushes, toothpaste and masks.  

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According to a Sunday update on the GoFundMe page, HAPSA Nepal had distributed over 100 sanitation kits and 500 female sanitary pads. Over the last several days, they have been working to send out 300 additional kits. The group’s long-term goal is to prepare kits for each displaced family — 40,000 in total, according to HAPSA Nepal President Pankaj Bhattarai.

“Nepal is a developing country, so we have lots of limitations and problems in rural parts of the country,” Bhattarai said. Those with resources must help “make the environment liveable for everyone.”

“We are focusing as an organization to prevent and mitigate epidemics that usually happen after a disaster,” Kharel said. “The sanitation kits are a big deal” for cholera mitigation, as the chance of consuming contaminated water is “very high” due to the many domestic animals killed in the earthquake.

The GoFundMe page had raised $8,988 at the time of publication. Brown undergraduate Nepalese students also organized their own fundraiser, selling Insomnia Cookies to raise nearly $700 for the GoFundMe, according to Kharel. He was “so excited to see the students’ engagement and thought for their homeland.”

“I’m really proud of those students,” Kharel added.

Former Herald reporter Indigo Mudbhary ’26, who is half-Nepalese and “calls Kathmandu home,” worked to coordinate the student fundraiser. Mudbhary wrote in an email to The Herald that “as a Nepali with access to privilege and resources, it was incredibly important to me to use my position … to raise funds for disaster relief.”

“This earthquake has affected some of the most vulnerable and rural regions of our country and it’s the bare minimum for us as Nepalis to support our people,” she wrote. “Moreover, there is little awareness on this campus about our country, and it’s our responsibility to educate our peers and provide them with opportunities to help in this time of need.”  

Learning more about the earthquake  

Sonam Sherpa, a postdoctoral research associate who is originally from the Mount Everest region of Nepal, discussed the tectonic activity in the area.

Sherpa works in the Northern Change Research Lab within the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences and at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. She uses satellites to look at water mass changes, surface water detection and flooding hazards due to rising sea levels. 

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Having grown up in Nepal and studied environmental science, Sherpa is familiar with Nepal’s geography, emphasizing its “earthquake-prone” location between the Indian and Eurasian plates. 

“Due to this tectonic movement and colliding of plates, we have the potential to create an earthquake of more than eight Richter scale — which is huge,” she said. An earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale in 2015 in Nepal, with devastating consequences.

The 2015 quake happened during the day, but the most recent earthquake occurred at midnight. “That means people were sleeping and vulnerable,” Sherpa said. “This created more fatalities.”

Sherpa added that Nepal is not sufficiently equipped with the proper infrastructure for earthquakes, despite government campaigns to increase awareness about building resilient structures. “Still, in the remote areas in the western part of Nepal — which was mostly damaged in this earthquake — it’s all small stone houses with mud. It’s not resilient at all.”

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Backstory into disaster relief, global emergency medicine

Kharel was born in midwestern Nepal and came to the United States with his father when he was thirteen years old. His mother had passed away several years before due to a lack of access to medical care.

“It took her eight hours to get to the nearest facility, so it was from my childhood years that I knew my passion was to improve healthcare in rural settings,” Kharel said.

He said that the 2015 earthquake “really changed everything — I was already widely involved with some of the communities in rural Nepal and those communities got completely destroyed.” He then formed HAPSA Nepal to help with recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Kharel spends two to three months out of the year in Nepal to engage with his projects. When he is not physically there, he is in regular communication with the team on the ground.

Last month, Kharel also launched Nepal's first poison information center which he will “officially inaugurate” on his current trip. While Kharel had planned the trip to launch the center before the earthquake, he will also visit the region most affected by the earthquake and do a needs assessment.

Last year, Kharel formed a partnership between Brown Emergency Medicine and Nyaya Health Nepal’s Bayalpata Hospital in far west Nepal. The partnership focuses on research, collaborative education and equipping local community health workers to respond to disasters and trauma in the community — a shift from past global health programs focused on setting up full operations in other countries.

Kharel emphasized the importance of long-term rebuilding efforts because after initial “disaster response leaves, a lot of people get left behind and a lot of funding goes away and that’s when people are really struggling for years and years.” 

He cited the long-lasting aftermath of the 2015 earthquake, that “we should not forget that it will happen again and again, and we need to prepare communities specifically for that.”

“This kind of danger is inevitable,” Sherpa said. “But how we can reduce more fatality … and create a more aware and resilient society is important.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed activities carried out by Kharel to HAPSA Nepal. The Herald regrets the error.


Gabriella Vulakh

Gabriella is the Senior Science & Research Editor of The Brown Daily Herald. She is a junior from San Francisco studying neuroscience on the premedical track. 



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