August 28, 2007
"I was totally shocked by what I saw in the town of Guadalupe. It felt like the day after the earthquake," says Luis Encinas, the MSF Emergency Coordinator who led a team on August 25 into Guadalupe, a town of 12,000 inhabitants, located 60 miles southeast of Pisco, in the suburbs of Ica city.
"In the town center, 95 percent of the houses have been destroyed or severely damaged, and people are living in the streets in terribly unhygienic conditions. No aid has come to Guadalupe, even though it is on the Pan-American Highway, the main road of the country," he says.
"After more than ten days without receiving aid, sometimes living with up to 40 people in one tent, these people feel abandoned, and not recognized as victims of the earthquake."
Ica was also badly affected, but the situation is slowly improving there, and hospitals have the capacity to respond to the main medical needs. However, the situation in Guadalupe is extremely precarious. Around 10,200 people have been affected by the 8.0-magnitude quake that hit on August 15. The only health center has seen a 250 percent increase in the number of consultations. MSF doctors immediately offered medical care to patients in need, donated drugs, medical equipment, and blankets.
"We visited some houses and we met this woman who had been squashed under a wall with her child in her arms when her house collapsed," says Dr. Loreto Barcelo, MSF's Medical Head for this project. "The woman broke her foot, and the little girl suffered multiple pelvis fractures. However, the child was only given a plaster and then discharged within 48 hours. The mother, who needed orthopaedic surgery, was probably not even treated because the health staff were overwhelmed."
Today, while the rest of her family spends nights in the street, fearing another earthquake, both she and her child are bedridden, helpless, in the only part of the house left standing.
The earthquake and its aftermath have inevitably taken a toll on the population's mental health.
"After more than ten days without receiving aid, sometimes living with up to 40 people in one tent, these people feel abandoned, and not recognized as victims of the earthquake," says Zohra Abaakouk, who is responsible for MSF's mental health component. "But they try to organize themselves as best they can, despite pains, sleeping troubles, fears or anxiety."
"In makeshift shelters made of cardboard and bed sheets in front of their destroyed houses, families are living in cold and unhygienic conditions. They have no latrines, no drinking water, and no real space to bathe."
–Dr. Loreto Barcelo,
To alleviate their suffering and to prevent a worsening of their mental state, a team of MSF psychologists immediately started providing psychosocial support. They are holding group sessions, called charlas, and individual consultations, when needed.
In makeshift shelters made of cardboard and bed sheets in front of their destroyed houses, families are living in cold and unhygienic conditions. They have no latrines, no drinking water, and no real space to bathe. MSF plans to develop areas with water access, bathing facilities, and latrines. In addition, the distribution of blankets and other basic relief items will start this week.
"The needs remain huge in this region and MSF teams continue to see populations in desperate need of assistance who have been forgotten," says Encinas. "This situation is unacceptable. Action is urgently needed to prevent these people from living in such unacceptable conditions."
In Peru, 25 MSF staff, both Peruvian and international, are working together to provide assistance to the people affected by the earthquake. MSF activities are focusing on mental health, medical care, distribution of relief items, and water and sanitation. Teams are working in the city of Pisco, in more remote areas to the east, and now in the southeast, in Guadalupe.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)