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Iberdrola

Médecins Sans Frontières steps up its response after Haiti earthquake and seeks access to isolated areas

Two of the organisation's planes carrying 80 tonnes of medical supplies will arrive in the Caribbean country at the weekend.
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Haiti's Civil Defence estimates that 137,000 families in the departments of Grand'Anse, Nippes and Sud have been affected by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shook the region on Saturday. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 500,000 people - 40 per cent of the total population of the affected departments - are in need of emergency humanitarian aid.

Civil Protection puts the provisional death toll at almost 2,200 and the number of injured at more than 9,000. These figures are provisional and are expected to rise in the coming days, as many municipalities in the affected areas remain isolated and landslides and flooding caused by recent storms have caused additional damage and complicated search and rescue efforts.

In terms of material damage, almost 61,000 houses have been destroyed and more than 76,000 damaged in the three worst affected provinces leaving thousands of people without shelter. Many public buildings (hospitals, schools, hotels, churches, private companies, etc.) were damaged or have collapsed.

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According to initial assessments, 24 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake according to OCHA. Many hospitals have had to evacuate their patients, and those facilities that are still operational are overwhelmed and suffering from a lack of medical equipment and medicines.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the area has suffered aftershocks and landslides causing further damage. From Monday night until Tuesday morning, Tropical Storm Grace hit the southern peninsula causing extremely heavy rains and flooding. These have complicated rescue efforts by making more areas inaccessible and affecting tents and temporary structures used for emergency medical care, relief and shelter.

MSF response scaled up

In Sud province, MSF has been assisting the injured since the first hours after the earthquake through the team based in Port-à-Piment, where the organisation runs a sexual and reproductive health project, and an emergency medical team in Port-à-Piment. The Port-à-Piment hospital where MSF works has itself been damaged. The patients, mostly maternity patients, were evacuated to a field hospital where our team continues to provide care. In Port-à-Piment, MSF is also stabilising patients injured by the earthquake, including those MSF has managed to evacuate from nearby Les Anglais, which is cut off from the rest of the province due to road damage.

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In Los Cayos, the capital of Sud province, an MSF team has been supporting the general hospital with medical supplies and human resources. Meanwhile, in Port-Salut, another team is receiving patients with injuries and fractures, including those referred from Port-à-Piment, Les Anglais and Les Cayes, and providing stabilisation, surgical care and follow-up. MSF has also sent emergency supplies (first aid kits, tents for emergency clinics, blood transfusion and plastering kits, as well as medicines) from its warehouse in Port-au-Prince to Sudan.

In Nippes, MSF has donated to the Sainte-Thérèse de Miragoâne hospital and two MSF medical staff are providing health support. MSF has also donated equipment to the Petit Trou health centre, which has suffered visible damage, including to the water system, and is organising water trucking. In the virtually isolated town of Baradères, MSF has donated medical supplies to the hospital and is trying to find ways to access areas where aid has not reached due to landslides blocking roads.

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Access routes, such as the road between the Keys and Jérémie, are severely damaged and complicate the deployment of aid to Grand'Anse. MSF is preparing to move supplies by sea and air. A medical team, including two surgical professionals and an operating theatre nurse, has managed to reach Jérémie and begin work at the St. Antoine hospital. In two days they have performed 10 surgical operations.

Fortunately, Port-au-Prince has not suffered any damage. MSF is treating the wounded at its trauma hospital in Tabarre. As of 18 August, 20 patients injured by the earthquake are being treated at the hospital. The day after the earthquake, MSF began providing stabilisation care to the injured at a new emergency centre in the Turgeau neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, at the Integrated Diagnostic and Treatment Centre, known as the Sacré-Cœur Hospital, which was not scheduled to open until the end of the week. Thirty patients were admitted on the first day. To cope with the blood shortage, a blood collection campaign was launched on the day of the earthquake in collaboration with the local authorities.