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Indonesia Earthquake – MSF Mobilizes to Complement Indonesian Relief Efforts
June 1, 2006
Six days after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the island of Java in Indonesia, the latest official figures for the number of wounded has doubled to just over 46,000, with more than 30,000 people suffering from serious trauma. National emergency services have been able to mobilize rapidly as they were already on standby with the recent threat of a volcanic eruption in the region, and local health workers have been able to efficiently treat the urgent cases. However, patients are in need of proper post-operative care and follow up, and many are still housed outside hospitals due to lack of space and fear of further aftershocks.
"As the hospitals were not damaged by the earthquake, they were rapidly able to stabilize patients and treat the most urgent cases," explains Fabrice Resongles, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) head of mission in Java. "However, there are still some patients in need of treatment: those who did not suffer from life threatening wounds, and whose condition was stabilized, but now may need an operation; and, those with complicated wounds who were not treated due to shortages of specialized materials."
In order to treat the wounded, an MSF surgical team is working in the operating theater of the hospital of Bedeseka (Yogyakarta) in collaboration with an Indonesian medical team. At the same time, a field hospital with a capacity of 150 beds is being set up as a referral center for the four main hospitals in Yogyakarta. The hospitals will be able to send patients who have already received a first treatment but need further hospitalization. This will relieve the case load on the hospitals by increasing the hospitalization space, and will provide patients with proper post-operative care. In addition, punctual donations of medical material have been carried out, and since Monday two nephrologists (kidney specialists) are providing support to health structures to effectively identify and treat crush syndrome, a common and potentially lethal medical condition associated with earthquakes.
In rural areas MSF is operating mobile clinics to identify unmet needs, treat basic wounds, and offer other basic medical care. A psychologist is counseling patients with psychosomatic complaints.
National emergency services have also mobilized to distribute relief items, such as tents, to families left homeless by the earthquake. Most people are staying in makeshift shelters next to their houses. However, there are still some gaps in the relief distributed, particularly for people living in the rural areas where aid is slower to arrive.
On June 1, MSF will receive another freight of relief supplies, including 2,000 kitchen sets (totaling 10 tons), and will start distribution of non-food items in villages that have been heavily affected by the earthquake. The distribution to families includes hygiene items, blankets, soap, cooking pots, as well as tools necessary for basic construction and protection from the rain such as wood, hammers, nails, and plastic sheeting.
"This will not be a massive distribution involving extensive assessments, coordination, and days of planning," explains MSF emergency coordinator Dr. Nathalie Civet. "Our priority is to get our aid into the hands of those who need it without any delay. We are helping to bridge the gap until a larger aid deployment can begin."