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PAHO Briefing on Haiti Earthquake Response - 21 January 2010

Jan 21 Press Briefing
Dr. Jon Andrus
PAHO Deputy Director


Yesterday, a strong 5.9 aftershock rocked Haiti. We have received reports of some additional collapse of buildings and some injuries, but fortunately no additional loss of life.

Obviously, this was very distressing for survivors of last week’s earthquake.

There are now approximately 40 search and rescue teams made up of 1820 volunteers and 175 dogs that continue to search in the affected areas.

We’re 9 days out since the world came crashing down on Haiti. In the hours following earthquake, the world seemed paralyzed in its attempts to get necessary aid into areas where people desperately needed attention and help. Blocked roads and disrupted communication made the response very, very challenging.

But progress is being made. Is it fast enough for us? Absolutely not, but despite enormous challenges, we are definitely encouraged by the progress being made.

We know that 35 countries have sent aid to Haiti. We have received many, many offers of help from individuals and institutions. We are coordinating and managing these requests, while at the same time tracking the hospital needs, including reconstruction, equipment and temporary staff.

To that end, the PAHO/WHO-led Health Cluster is continuing to assess and collect information on pre-existing hospitals and health facilities. We are looking at not only the impact of the earthquake on their physical infrastructure but also how well they are functioning in terms of, for example, referral systems and transportation for patients.

Nationwide we know that of 213 pre-existing hospitals and health facilities in Haiti, one was destroyed, 3 were severely damaged, 13 sustained moderate damage, and 8 were not damaged. We are still gathering detailed information on others.

From the hospital assessments, we know that the priority needs include more staff (especially orthopedic surgeons and nurses); more facilities for post-surgical follow-up; better sanitation and management of medical waste; more mobile clinics to serve resettlement camps and security for the mobile health teams.

There are 18 hospitals now functioning in the Port-au-Prince area with help from nongovernmental organizations and the military.

In addition to about 9 existing field hospitals, there are 6 more scheduled to arrive in the country in the coming days.

We have reports that there are more than 300,000 people in some 280 spontaneous settlements, mainly in parks and open spaces. Haitian authorities estimate that at least 1 million people have been left homeless.

The priority needs for people in these new settlements continue to be medical attention, food, and water.

Haiti’s central warehouse for medicines and medical supplies (PROMESS), which is managed by PAHO/WHO, is procuring more drugs and supplies to cope with demand. It is receiving donations and is purchasing supplies in the Dominican Republic to ensure rapid distribution.

We know that flights are en route to Haiti carrying medicines and supplies that can treat 165,000 people for one month, plus drugs and equipment to treat 1,000 people with trauma injuries.

Affected communities are at increased risk of moderate and severe acute malnutrition, especially in vulnerable groups such as young children, pregnant and lactating women and older persons.

The risk of malnutrition in newborns and infants can be increased by lack of support for breastfeeding. With water and sanitation systems disrupted, it becomes even more critical for mothers to rely on breastfeeding for infants rather than formula mixed with possibly contaminated water. So we are putting special emphasis on this area of work.

Similarly, reproductive health remains a major issue, with concerns including ensuring safe deliveries through access to basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 15:46

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