Doctors at IsraAID use a low-tech solution to give Nepalese vital medicines.
Doctors at IsraAID use a low-tech solution to give Nepalese vital medicines.

Israelis may be famous for their innovative and cutting-edge technologies, but they’re just as talented at using untraditional out-of-the-box methods to get the job done.

In a tricky situation they’ll put together a bit of gum and string and whatever else comes to hand and find a solution to the most difficult of problems.

It’s no surprise, then, that in Nepal, which has suffered two devastating earthquakes in the last few weeks, Israeli aid group IsraAID is doing just the same. This time it’s a bicycle pump that’s being put to use to help hundreds of Nepalese suffering from lung diseases.

“Chronic bronchitis and obstructive lung disease is a plague in this land,” says Prof. Mick Elkan, head of IsraAID’s medical team in Nepal. “Firewood is often damp, and smoke inhalation is part of daily life here.”

The main reason, he explains, is that the houses don’t have chimneys. Yet with no electricity in most of the rural villages, locals have to cook and heat their homes on wood fires in the middle of the house.

“You enter the house, and instead of the same crisp air as outside, you are suffocated by the dense smoke,” explains Elkan.

In preparation, IsraAID volunteers, who came to Nepal to help in the wake of the deadly quakes that have killed more than 8,000 people, brought with them numerous treatments for chronic bronchitis including antibiotics, corticosteroids (both oral and injected), topped by nebulizers to deliver bronchodilator drugs.

The nebulizers are breathing masks with a small receptacle at the bottom that needs to be filled with the liquid drug. A long pipe connects to the compressed air source.

Without some kind of power source, these nebulizers can’t work, however, so on arrival in Nepal, IsraAID doctors went to the Thamel market in Kathmandu looking for bicycle pumps to push the medicine into the breathing masks.

Moving village to village, IsraAID doctors showed local Nepalese nurses how to fill the receptacle with the drug, to pump it using the bicycle pumps into the masks for treatment, and how to clean and re-use the masks. They also left plenty of liquid bronchodilators.

“We didn’t come with gadgetry never to be seen again, but with novel innovations using local resources,” says Elkan. “Our goal and IsraAID’s mission has been to assist local communities during this time of crisis, and accompany them on the road to recovery.”