MSF sends in more staff to assist victims of earthquake

Brussels/Algiers - Two additional international staff will arrive in Algeria tomorrow to reinforce the MSF intervention for victims of the earthquake. They will join the team of four that started working over the weekend. "The earthquake has left many buildings collapsed and infrastructure destroyed," says Serge Beel, MSF emergency coordinator in Algeria.

"But assistance to the population started quickly. We are now getting a better idea of the most pressing needs and give assistance accordingly." During a coordination meeting yesterday, the Algerian Ministry of Health asked MSF to assess the need to supply safe drinking water to the affected population and to work on sanitation facilities. This intervention will be focused mainly on Boumerdès¨s and some other small villages to the east of Algiers, close to the epicentre of the earthquake.

To respond to this request, MSF is sending a specialist in water provision and sanitation. The other specialist MSF is sending, is a psychologist experienced in setting up systems for treating mental health trauma after natural disasters. He will assess the need for a program to deal with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Over the weekend a team of nephrologists (kidney specialists) visited several hospitals and assessed the need for emergency dialysis support. The risk of kidney failure is often high after earthquakes, as crushed muscle tissue can secrete a poisonous substance. But in Algeria today the need for this specialised care seems limited.

Therefore, MSF has decided to bring the nephrologists back to Belgium. "Part of an adequate emergency response is this kind of flexibility," concluded Serge Beel. "We have used our experience of recent earthquakes elsewhere, such as Turkey and Afghanistan, to prepare for possible actions. Once on the ground, we adjust our assistance to the actual needs.

Given the present situation and level of assistance available, we will concentrate on assessing the water and sanitation needs as well as the possibility to deal with post traumatic stress disorder."