Monday, January 18, 2010

Health Update. January 18, 7am.

Since the last MFP Report, food, water, and medical aid are beginning to be distributed to residents of Port-Au-Prince(PAP). Five days since the earthquake struck, we still have incomplete assessments of the damage to structures and of the population needs. This lack of information, complicated by enormous logistical hurdles in relief delivery, have slowed relief efforts. Nevertheless, distribution of aid is taking place in a number of places in the city. Food and supply depots are filling up with thousand of tons of relief supplies and are en route from around the world by air and over land from the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, adequate water, food, sanitation and medical care remains a critical need for most inhabitants of PAP.

A worrisome deficiency is damage assessment of towns west of PAPA (e.g. Legane and Gressier) which have suffered extensive damage to structures and have a high number of casualties. Little aid has reached affected areas west of Carrefor( see map).

The violence in the streets is being overplayed by the US press but it is clear that hundreds of angry and hungry Haitians looted shops in downtown PAP and swarmed a number of food distribution centers. Bolstered US and Canadian troops, and Haitian police are guarding desperately needed food in central depots, and a 6 pm curfew is being enforced.

Search and rescue teams. There are now 43 teams in place with 1,739 rescue workers and 161 rescue dogs. Live Haitians are still being pulled out from under rubbles. 71 Haitians have been found by rescue teams.

Shelter. Tent cities are springing up around PAP. The Government intends to construct a temporary settlement for 100,000 people, with a goal of housing 200,000 families (1 million people) in a number of settlements within the next few weeks. The temporary settlements will give residents access to water, food, sanitation, medical care and anti-malarial mosquito nets.

Hospitals and medical personnel. The Hopital de L'Universite d'Etat d'Haiti is the major general hospital in downtown PAP. The medical and maternity units are functioning, but the surgical unit has been damaged and is not operating. The Pan-American Health Organization(PAHO) and the Boston-based Partners in Health are charged with restoring services at the University Hospital. We have received reports of a number of hospitals in PAP, including St. Francis de Sales that have the capacity to perform surgery. A number of field hospitals have been set up at strategic locations by foreign governments (Israel, Russia) and five more are scheduled to be operating shortly. The Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have sent a number of "rapid deployment hospitals" which will have the capacity to perform trauma and orthopedic surgery.

There has been displacement of people out of the PAP region, and injured people are seeking medical assistance north of PAP, particularly in St. Mark and Gonaives( see map), where hospitals have been overwhelmed. Hospitals at the border with the Dominican Republic( in Jimani) are caring for a large number of Haitians who have crossed the border, as well.

Numerous relief organizations have offered assistance and remain on standby to depart to Haiti. At the present time, only organizations who can provide their own transportation, food, shelter, and medical supplies should consider travelling to Haiti. Relief organizations presently working in Haiti have expressed a special need for physicians and nurses skilled in trauma and orthopedic surgery, and in post-operative care.

Burying the dead. There is no systematic way to identify the dead, and mass graves are being used at present. The Haitian Government states that 13,00 bodies have been buried. It is estimated that the total dead in the catastrophe is approximately 50,000 Haitians. Refrigeration units have been requested by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA) to store dead bodies for identification.

Information used in this report was from colleagues on the ground in PAP, and from reports from OCHA, PAHO, Reuters, and the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.