El Salvador: MSF provides first assistance after earthquake

MSF has ongoing operations in El Salvador and have now moved to assist emergency operations in San Slavador following an earthquake that struck 55 km south of Playa Blanca, which is 100kms from capital, San Salvador, on January 12. Immediate actions include assisiting the hospital in San Salvador which has been severely damaged. Currently there are seven MSF ex-pat staff members in El Salvador.

There are immediate concerns regarding the water system and public access to clean water supplies. There have been instances of diarrhoea in the capital and this condition may worsen if the water system is severely damaged.

Two major hospitals in San Salvador are severely damaged -the National Hospital of San Miguel and the San Rafael Hospital in Santa Tecla - and people are being treated outside and are in need of shelter.

In coordination with the National Emergency Committee and the El Salvador Ministry of Health (MoH), MSF is working in the football stadium that has been designated to be the centre of the relief operations.

Two water tanks with five ton capacities have been provided by MSF. In addition, MSF staff are distributing plastic sheeting and rope so people can shelter themselves from the sun.

MSF has made contact with the MSF Regional Office in Costa Rica and with other MSF operations in Nicaraqua and Honduras. Honduras teams will be sending two trucks with emergency materials consisting of watsan logistics and medical equipment and staff will undertake a quick assesment in San Miguel.

Two logisticians and one medical doctor from MSF Honduras will attend be dispatched to El Salvador to develop the MSF team in the field.

MSF is planning to assess the areas of Sonsonate (Armenia), La Libertad and San Miguel as well as Santa Ana.

Earthquakes are difficult situations to offer assistance. Often communications and transport are severely affected and receiving information regarding developments can be slow. This is not only for information regarding the scope of activities but also being able to quickly identify areas where attention is needed.

MSF has been working in El Salvador since the end of 1998 following Hurricane Mitch, focusing on water and sanitation as well as cholera prevention. At the end of 2000, MSF assisted with the major dengue outbreak and are now setting up a HIV/Aids project focused on mother to child transmission.