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MSF Aid Operations in South Asia
January 7, 2005
January 7, 2005 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has sent more than 150 international aid workers and 300 tons of relief materials to provide assistance to people affected by the earthquake and resulting tsunami in South Asia. MSF is focusing aid operations on Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but is continuing to assess the humanitarian needs in the region. Additional aid workers and relief cargo will be deployed as needed.
Since an MSF emergency team arrived in hard-hit Aceh, Indonesia, on December 28 with six tons of aid supplies, more than 60 MSF international aid workers and more than 120 tons of relief, food, and medical materials have been airlifted to the area. Currently, MSF is working in five locations-the provincial capital Banda Aceh, Meulaboh, Medan, Lamno, and Lampe-Ngo-to assist roughly 100,000 people.
From a base in the provincial capital Banda Aceh, MSF is operating mobile medical teams by helicopter to the east and west. The helicopter has a 2,500-pound carrying capacity, and is filled with three staff members and medical supplies. The remaining capacity is filled with rice, tarpaulins, water, and other aid supplies. Another smaller helicopter is operating out of Meulaboh on the west coast.
When the MSF team reaches an area they do a rapid assessment of the needs and conduct medical consultations for people in the immediate area, and then leave food and shelter materials before taking off for the next site. The team transports any seriously wounded people back to Fakine hospital in Banda Aceh, where they receive treatment for broken limbs and infected wounds. The next day the team returns to the area with specific supplies, based on their initial assessment, to best meet the most urgent needs of people.
The mobile teams have been running several aid operations in the villages of Lamno and Lampe-Ngo on the western coast of Aceh. On January 4, MSF delivered more than 600 pounds of rice, 100 tarpaulins, and dropped off a water-and-sanitation specialist. In both villages, MSF teams stayed overnight. On the return journey, the helicopter airlifted seven patients in need of hospitalization to Banda Aceh. They are now in Fakine hospital receiving treatment for broken legs and infected wounds.
An estimated 11,000 people are living in six displaced-persons camps in Lamno. In Lampe-Ngo there an estimated 3,000 displaced people who have been forced to dry and eat rice that had been submerged by salt water during the tsunami. Local people told the MSF team that around 80 percent of the village’s population remains unaccounted for.
MSF has dispatched a surgical team to Sigli General District Hospital. The 35-bed hospital has remained open with the help of Indonesian staff—many of the employees of the hospital were killed)—but has been inundated with wounded people, many of whom need surgery. In the first 60 consultations, MSF found 20 infected wounds and performed surgery on six wounded people, and at least 10 more surgical operations are expected. MSF is sending a water-and-sanitation team and two mobile clinics to aid 14 displaced-persons camps around Sigli.
Further east from Sigli, in the General District Hospital of Bireuen, MSF has donated medicines and infusion materials and has set up a medical supply link with the MSF team in Sigli. Between the two hospitals, there are approximately 400 patients with about 50 arriving daily.
The MSF mobile clinic in Banda Aceh spent most of January 4 with approximately 1,000 displaced people outside a mosque in the Cot Keung area. The 141 consultations were essentially for injuries, skin diseases and respiratory tract infections; bringing the total number of consults to more than 500 since January 2. MSF is also bringing a doctor, a nurse, and supplies to Lhok Timon to do consultations during the day.
In Meulaboh, on the west coast, a team visited an 80-bed hospital, where a surgeon was working without a nurse to treat some 200 people with wounds. MSF sent a team of seven nurses to support the surgeon and the hospital. There are an estimated 35,000 people living in 35 displaced-persons camps.
In Banda Aceh, MSF has provided more than 440 corpse bags to local authorities in charge of removing bodies. An MSF water-and-sanitation team has set up a five cubic meter water bladder to provide cleaning drinking water for approximately 1,700 displaced people living in a building in the city.
MSF is working with the Greenpeace ship ‘Rainbow Warrior’ and its crew of 19 to transport equipment, food, fuel, medical supplies, and MSF medical staff from Banda Aceh to Meulaboh.
MSF has more than 40 aid workers, including doctors, surgeons, nurses, and logisticians, on the ground in Sri Lanka. They are trying to coordinate their efforts with the already strong response from local authorities and communities. For example, a local brewery has replaced its beer production with bottling water.
Charter planes with more than 200 tons of aid supplies have arrived in the capital Colombo. In addition to relief materials, the cargo contains the equipment and supplies to set up hospitals to care for 40,000 people for a period of three months.
Heavy rains in the Ampara and Batticaloa regions, where MSF has focused its work, have severely impeded aid activities. Road and bridges in the area had already been destroyed or severely damaged by the tsunami.
MSF is operating 13 mobile clinics on the east coast. Each is providing an average of 150 medical consultations per day. MSF is supporting the three main hospitals in Ampara, where the Sri Lankan government estimates that more than 180,000 people are homeless, and plans to set up three field hospitals.
MSF teams will distribute shelter materials like tents, mosquito nets, and jerry cans to 6,000 families, roughly 24,000 people, living in 125 settlements in and around Ampara. MSF is also establishing an epidemiological surveillance system as well as providing water-and-sanitation support for 60 settlements of displaced people.
MSF has established an outpatient clinic in Tangalla on the southern coast. Mobile teams will provide assistance to displaced people in the area. An outpatient clinic has also been opened in nearby Hambantoa. MSF is also trying to establish a network of local doctors to provide psychosocial support to people traumatized by the disaster.
MSF conducted exploratory missions during the early days of the disaster in Ranong and north of Phuket, and visited three provincial hospitals and one district hospital in the region of Takuapa. Because of the strong local response MSF determined that its resources would better used elsewhere. MSF donated medicine to the provincial hospital in Phang Na.
After conducting assessments in southeastern India in Chennai and Nagapattinam, MSF is focusing its operations on psychological support for the victims and establishing an epidemiological surveillance system.
An MSF team has conducted assessments along the southwest coast, from Myeik to Kwanthoung, and in some islands of the Myeik and Kawthoung archipelagos. These assessments indicate that Myanmar has escaped the worst effects of the tsunami.
A two-person team from MSF assessed the tsunami damage to the Mudug region. The team found property damage, several deaths, and some contaminated water wells but no disease outbreaks. They donated food, water, blankets, and plastic sheeting to local groups and communities as well as medicines, including antibiotics and oral-rehydration salts.
Tags: South Asian Tsunami