Colombia: Difficult Access for Humanitarian Aid to Isolated Areas

Bogota/New York, January 27, 1999 — Drugs, medical-surgical supplies, clean water, blankets, and shelter are the most urgent needs in Armenia - the region hardest hit by Monday's earthquake in Colombia. Aid is arriving in the main cities, but access to affected small towns in this mountainous area has been difficult due to severely damaged roads. Teams from the international medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have found that hospitals in the area are urgently in need of drugs and surgical supplies to cope with the emergency.

"Our teams are concentrating their efforts on bringing aid to remote areas that have been difficult to access and have not yet received any aid," explains Javier Gabaldón, Operations Director of MSF. "A team made up of surgeons and trauma specialists will arrive in Armenia tomorrow to reinforce the medical team we already have working there. A charter flight carrying 40 tons of drugs and medical supplies will be arriving in Colombia in the next 24 hours," adds Javier Gabaldón

The MSF relief flight will be delivering surgical supplies, anesthetics, essential drugs, such as antibiotics, dispensary tents, body bags, water chlorination and distribution systems, and emergency shelter materials. MSF has a twenty-person team working in the Armenia region. The teams have already distributed a supply of drugs to Armenia's San Juan de Dios Hospital.

Approximately 40% of structures in Armenia, a city of 283,249 inhabitants, have been damaged by the earthquake. Electricity and telecommunication services have been interrupted and the water distribution and sanitation system has been destroyed. Many injured remain in the streets awaiting medical care.