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El Salvador Depends on International Humanitarian Aid
February 21, 2001
Days after a second devastating earthquake hit El Salvador, a third small earthquake shook the country on February 20. While the damage is not near that wreaked by the previous two tremors, it is unnerving to a country where many people are still living beside their destroyed houses, small villages remain completely isolated, and hospitals lack medicines and equipment.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) currently has 85 aid workers, both national and international, running medical activities in the country's most affected areas. These include primary healthcare programs, vaccinations, mental health programs, surgery, and epidemiological and nutritional surveillance.
While the international aid presence has diminished since the first earthquake in January, MSF has continued to bring in aid workers from neighboring countries and has begun to distribute medicine and supplies to local health centers, collect epidemiological data, install provisional water systems, and provide basic shelter.
The second earthquake on February 13, affected 1.3 million people and health units have reported that approximately 45 percent of consultations are related to mental health problems.
MSF has worked with national and regional radio stations to broadcast messages that address the main psychological problems people suffer after a traumatic event, such as anger, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and depression. The broadcasts are intended to give practical advice to help people overcome their symptoms.
"The idea is to reach as many people as possible, to explain that these are normal reactions under such circumstances and to offer some advice that helps them manage the situation," explained Diana Vidalies, a psychologist responsible for MSF's mental health program in El Salvador.