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Peru: MSF Provides Care to Survivors in Earthquake Affected Region
August 20, 2007
A cargo plane with 12 tons of relief supplies has arrived in the area affected by the earthquake allowing the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team in the Pisco region to start offering medical care to victims.
MSF emergency teams are starting to provide medical care in two municipalities east of the coastal city of Pisco, located 185 km south of the Peruvian capital, Lima. More than 500 people were killed and up to 2,000 were injured in the 8.0-magnitude earthquake that hit the Peruvian coast on Wednesday, August 15. Thousands of people are homeless in and around Pisco, Canete, Chincha, and Ica, which are the most affected zones.
In Pisco itself, where the hospital has been seriously damaged, local medical staff are working hard to take care of the wounded in the city's central park. MSF teams are, therefore, concentrating their work in Humay and Independencia, two towns with 6,000 and 12,000 inhabitants, respectively. Health facilities in these towns have been destroyed and relief has not arrived yet.
"A 12-ton MSF cargo plane arrived on Sunday with sufficient material to start providing primary health care, wound dressing, minor surgery in specifically designed tents," says Luis Encinas, emergency coordinator for MSF in Peru. "We will also organize distributions of hygiene kits, blankets, and plastic sheeting for the local population which is forced to live in the open with temperatures at night ranging from 6 to 8 degrees Celsius."
Mental health professionals are working closely with the rest of the medical team to identify traumatize patients as well assist their relatives and friends. MSF psychologists will rely heavily on community groups and networks. The team will also provide psychological support to people with severe injuries and trauma who are referred to Lima and Pisco.
MSF is also sending a member of the Renal Disaster Relief Task Force (RDRTF) with specific nephrological material to treat victims of "crush syndrome," a very common condition among earthquake victims in which muscle tissue damaged by severe internal injury can release toxins into the bloodstream and lead to kidney failure.
In Pisco, while dead bodies continue to be found by rescuers under the fallen buildings, most of the 16,000 homeless survivors have started to move out of the city to find refuge with relatives or in nearby areas. "Many of these areas have received no aid yet, and are lacking water points and medicines," explains Encinas.
While medical work is starting, another MSF team continues to assess the needs in more remote locations where no aid agencies have arrived yet. If more needs are identified in the next few days, MSF might reinforce the team with additional workers and send more relief supplies.
The MSF team currently consists of 12 international staff: medical doctors, logisticians, psychologists and a water-and-sanitation engineer. They work alongside their Peruvian colleagues.
MSF has worked in Peru since 1985. In Lima, MSF has been running an HIV/Aids project in the slum of Villa El Salvador (near Lima), which is currently being handed over to the Ministry of Health.