El Salvador: Earthquakes and dengue fever

© Chris de Bode Click on image for full size An elderly couple gazes at an earthquake's destruction.
Then, in January and February 2001, two earthquakes struck the country, killing over 1,200 people and wounding 8,500 others, and disrupted the functioning of at least 25% of the country's health care structures and its already poor water and sanitation facilities. Emergency earthquake response When the first earthquake hit, MSF teams, already working in El Salvador, launched an emergency program to assist the victims in the most affected and isolated areas. Medical brigades assisted displaced people living in El Cafetalon and Polideportivo camps and in Comasagua, Armenia, Juayua, San AgustÃ?­n, and San Ildefonso. MSF also provided surgical care, supplied medicine and medical equipment, and helped repair damaged infrastructure in hospitals in San Miguel, Usulutan, and Rosales and in the maternity hospital in San Salvador, the capital. After the second earthquake, MSF extended activities to the departments of CuscatlÃ?¡n, La Paz, and San Vicente. See box (opposite) for more on MSF emergency intervention following earthquakes in El Salvador, India, and Peru. Click on image for full size
Dengue fever The nationwide dengue fever epidemic resulted in 16,000 cases of classic dengue, 409 cases of haemorrhagic dengue, and 32 deaths. To reduce morbidity and mortality rates, MSF ran a case management and vector control program in the departments of San Vicente, La Paz, and Sonsonate. Since November 1998, in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, MSF has worked to reduce the instance of water-borne disease through construction or renovation of 2,000 latrines, 600 wells, and four water distribution systems and health and hygiene education in Ahuachapan, Sonsonate, La Paz, and San Vicente. This program was expected to end in April 2001 but was extended when over 30% of the infrastructure built was damaged or destroyed by the earthquakes. Preventing HIV/AIDS transmission to babies After a delay caused by the earthquakes, MSF began an HIV/AIDS program in San Salvador. MSF supplies drugs and trains medical staff in an effort to reduce mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus at the city's main maternity hospital and 11 area health centers; as of late summer 2001, over 20 mothers and babies were under treatment. MSF also promotes condom use and health education in sex establishments. MSF worked in El Salvador from 1983 to 1992, during the civil war, and returned at the end of 1998 in response to Hurricane Mitch. International staff: 38 National staff: 76