News and Public Information
PAHO Responds in Peru Earthquake Emergency
Washington, D.C., August 20, 2007 (PAHO)—The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has sent experts to areas affected by the earthquake that struck near Pisco, Peru, killing more than 500 people, injuring over 1,000, and destroying or damaging numerous hospitals and health centers.
The first PAHO/WHO assessment missions to the most affected areas, Ica and Pisco, have already identified basic emergency health needs of the affected population, where national health authorities are responding, according to Dr. Jean-Luc Poncelet, who heads PAHO's Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief area.
"There has been a good local response to the disaster, and the most severely injured patients have received treatment, many of them in Lima. There are enough Peruvian doctors on hand. The most important problems are now local access to health services and distribution of goods, transport, and water," Dr. Poncelet said.
Four heath facilities were reported destroyed, including two hospitals in Pisco near the epicentre and three health centers in Castrovirreyna, Huancavelica, one of the poorest areas in Peru. Because of damage to health facilities in Pisco, in many cases health services are being provided out-of-doors, under precarious conditions. More than 34,250 homes were destroyed in the earthquake.
Because of a lack of electricity and due to damage to the water system's pipe system more than 150,000 people are estimated to have no access to drinking water, so water quality control is a priority, including measures to strengthen testing and monitoring and provide technical advice by experts on quick rehabilitation, including provision of small equipment for local testing.
For populations living in shelters, environmental health, basic sanitation and solid waste management are a priority, Dr. Poncelet said, noting that transport is very slow due to damaged roads.
What is now needed are measures to restore essential services, strengthen the epidemiological surveillance system and vector control activities in affected areas, with monitoring teams to prevent disease outbreaks and laboratory testing, if necessary. Also planned are structural and functional damage assessments, and replacement of damaged emergency medical equipment.
Health experts especially from neighboring countries have already been recruited to advise on early rehabilitation of the health sector, including logistic support, transportation, and communications, and supporting health authorities to set up of health coordination centers in a least three locations and organize critical public health response.
An information tracking system called LSS/SUMA is being set up, and the United Nations is inviting all institutions to share information on all donations.
Dr. Poncelet said it is important for people to respond to what the country requested, and not to send blankets or other goods unless they are specifically requested.
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PAHO, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and raise the quality of life of their peoples. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.
For more information please contact Daniel Epstein, PAHO, Public Information, 202-974-3459.
Regional Office of the World Health Organization