MSF expands its operations into Hubei and Anhui provinces

MSF has expanded its relief efforts to include Hubei and Anhui Provinces following requests for assistance from the provincial authorities. MSF dispatched two new teams of four people each to these two provinces. They are composed of a doctor, a nurse or logistician/administrator and two water and sanitation experts. The teams will remain based in Wuhan and Hefei for a minimum of two months. In both provinces, MSF is collaborating closely with the Public Health Bureau and the local Red Cross.

MSF is providing emergency medical supplies and emergency shelter to the people most severely affected by the floods. This includes drugs, chlorine, plastic sheeting, blankets and tents to erect temporary health centers to replace the structures, which have collapsed. All materials are being purchased locally.

In Anhui Province, the team is preparing its first distribution of relief goods to Zongyang and Huaining counties. The items will be distributed to the local health authorities and the drugs will be used to re-supply mobile medical teams and clinics. In order to allow MSF to monitor the use of its drugs and chlorine, the local authorities are requested to sign certificates of donations, which include details such as batch numbers and packing lists. MSF is also asking its local counterparts to keep epidemiological reports. These reports allow the local health authorities and MSF to keep track of disease trends. Combined with regular stock checks, this allows MSF to monitor distribution and application of its drugs. Furthermore, MSF is conducting regular spot checks on the dykes and in the clinics.

Following his assessment of the needs in Anhui Province, Dr Nathanael Goldman was very impressed with the efforts of the homeless to keep their shelters and their surroundings clean. "People are very aware of the danger resulting from poor hygiene, but it is very difficult, especially for those stuck on the dykes to dig latrines and bury waste as this might further weaken these structures." Therefore the waste flows straight into the water surrounding the dykes. Dr Goldman is worried about the threat of infectious diseases once the water level falls. "The polluted environment people will return to once the water starts receding will present us [the medical staff] with tremendous challenges as it is the ideal breading ground for diseases."

The MSF water and sanitation experts are working next to the medical staff to provide access to clean drinking water and improve hygiene conditions in an effort to help control the spread of infectious diseases.