Haiti: MSF mobile teams started moving out into the capital

January 23, 2010

Haiti: MSF mobile teams started moving out into the capital

As the larger MSF hospitals in Port au Prince and their surrounding tent wards continue to treat injured people and carry out operations, the mobile teams that have recently started moving out into the capital and in some places west of Port au Prince are finding significant numbers of people needing medical care. Because all the working hospitals in the city have been overwhelmed for the last ten days with seriously injured people, the more routine illnesses or longer term care of wounds have been hard to manage. The clinics find those patients whose more minor injuries and illnesses can easily deteriorate if neglected.

On their first day in the capital the clinics located around 200 people patients who needed help with cleaning their wounds, changing dressings, putting in stitches or getting more specialised care in one of MSF's hospitals. In Leogâne and Grand-Goâve areas, the MSF teams identified dozens of injured people who needed surgical care and refered them to hospitals.

In one of the poorest parts of Port au Prince, the Cite Soleil slum, where MSF performs up to 30 surgical operations a day, the team is seeing some increases in the number of people being admitted with injuries caused by bullets or machetes. Though there has been a perceptible increase in tension in the area, the numbers are relatively low, an average of three a day. Marie- Christine Ferir, one of MSF's emergency coordinators, says that the cases must be seen in perspective. "Well before this earthquake this was a very deprived area, with many social problems and a history of violence. Clearly, tensions will be further amplified by the stresses from this quake."

The other MSF teams have been working on the continuing issue of finding or building the right facilities to treat and house the patients in MSF's care. The major tremor on Wednesday complicated what was already a pressing need, as two hospitals in Port au Prince and one in Leogane had to be evacuated because they were no longer safe. Patients had to be put in tents and 100 were moved to be alongside the emerging inflatable hospital.

Although the overall number of MSF staff working in the emergency has been rising fast, it has taken a long time to trace some of the Haitian staff who were working in the projects that existed when the earthquake struck. Very many of them have returned to work, despite what has happened to their families and neighbourhoods. But MSF has to record with great regret that we now know that four of our colleagues were killed. Another four who had recently worked with us also lost their lives, and we are trying to confirm what has happened to six staff, who are still missing.

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