The volunteer group RNA16 shot into the limelight in May 2020 after it handled the first coronavirus death in Nepal at a time when there was extreme stigma about the disease.
Eight months on, they continue to conduct rescue missions for other crises besides Covid-19, and the team has grown from four to ten.
“We have handled close to 26 Covid bodies,” says Arun Sainju, who leads the team that worked closely with the Nepal Army in handling the coronavirus casulties.
Sainju and his team were awarded a national medal by President Bidya Devi Bhandari in September 2020. They also received the Gallantry Award First-class from Nepal Scouts in October.
RNA16 is a short form for ‘Rescue And Awareness in 16 Types of Disasters’, and speaks for the work it does. Currently, the team helps people with PCR tests, ambulance service in response vehicles, fumigation of affected areas, and training on Covid-19 safety to health institutions, hospitals, and community health groups.
During last year’s monsoon, the team also was called to respond to landslides in Sindhupalchok where it conducted rescues.
“The last two months were quite busy with training sessions,” says Sainju, who has just returned from Solu Khumbu after training 134 staff in dealing with Covid emergency response.