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The chances of finding new survivors in the rubble of last week’s earthquake in Haiti are now minimal, said a top Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) official today. But many survivors need urgent medical attention if they are to recover fully from injuries sustained in the quake.

In addition, ensuring access to clean water, food, and shelter and preventing violence and crime are essential to avert more illness and suffering for the Haitian population in the near and longer term.

“At this point in the relief efforts, our top health priorities remain treating people with crush injuries, fractures, and lacerations, providing post-operative care, and preventing conditions such as acute malnutrition and dehydration while also ensuring basic supplies like food and water and—importantly—security,” said PAHO’s Deputy Director, Dr. Jon Andrus.

He said many quake survivors have serious wounds that have still not been treated or have not been properly treated, and that infection of wounds is a major problem that needs immediate attention.

Relief organizations from around the world are working hard to address these needs.

There are now more than 50 teams from different countries and organizations that providing health services to sick and injured Haitians, Andrus reported. There are 40 health facilities that are functioning in Port-au-Prince, including eight field hospitals set up by various countries and organizations.

Many functioning hospitals are working with the support of nongovernmental organizations such as Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross, and Medical Emergency Relief International (Merlin). Field hospitals set up by various countries are providing essential medical treatment, including urgently needed specialized care.

For example, France’s field hospital is providing obstetric surgical care, Brazil’s is carrying out neurologic and facial surgeries, and Russia’s is doing orthopedic surgery.

The USNS Comfort ship, which has a 1,000-bed capacity, arrived in Haiti yesterday, as did a team of 20 trauma experts from Mexico.

Getting aid to an estimated 1 million Haitians who have been left homeless by the earthquake is a major priority, Andrus said. There are about 600 spontaneous settlements that have sprung up in the country as a result of people abandoning their damaged or destroyed homes and neighborhoods.  

Andrus cited some progress in getting safe water to people. He said there are currently about 75 to 80 distribution sites providing water to 130,000-180,000 people daily. In addition, the U.S. military reports it has distributed 1.4 million bottles of water, and the Red Cross says it is providing water to 12,000 people in three settlement areas.

“There are many others who are distributing water along with food, but there are gaps,” said Andrus. “We understand that Cite-Soleil, the capital’s poorest neighborhood, is facing a critical water shortage.”

UNICEF is among a number of organizations building new latrines, while PAHO/WHO is helping Haitian authorities collect and safely dispose of waste from latrines as well as hospital waste. Other organizations and countries, including Dubai, are sending water treatment and sanitation equipment.

Special PAHO software for managing the distribution of humanitarian relief supplies, LLS/SUMA, is now functioning at the airport in Port-au-Prince. DHL, the international shipping company, is helping to support the system, Andrus said.

He welcomed news of a new a cash-for-work program set up by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to help the local economy by hiring Haitians to clear and repair streets, restore electricity, and do other recovery work.

As of today, PAHO/WHO has channeled over $12 million in cash and in-kind donations to Haiti from countries and partner donors, Andrus noted.

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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Last Updated on Monday, 25 January 2010 04:07

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