Floods in Haiti: MSF starts intervention in Gonaives

After the flooding that hit the city of Gonaives, in northwest Haiti, on Saturday September 18, MSF has started its intervention to meet the medical needs of the population. According to the assessment made on September 20 by the MSF team in Gonaives, the city has been severely hit by the floods.

"Some parts of the city are still completely underwater", said Silvien Auerbach, MSF Head of Mission in Haiti. "Other parts can now be reached by foot, but huge amounts of mud and remaining water make all movements extremely difficult "A large number of houses have been seriously damaged, or completely ruined.

There is not a single operational health facility left. The hospital is unusable, as all medical equipment have been destroyed."The population of Gonaives managed to escape the water by fleeing to the hills surrounding the city, or by climbing on the rooftops of their houses. Some 300 people have been reported dead, but exact figures are not available yet. Most severe victims have been evacuated to the town of Saint-Marc, two hours car drive south of Gonaives.

The MSF emergency team currently at work in Gonaives is composed of two doctors, two logisticians and one nurse. The team has identified a health center on the west side of the city, which will serve for consultations.

"After a rapid rehabilitation of the facility, we plan to bring medical equipment and supplies from Port-au-Prince", said Auerbach."The main priority is now to identify patients. Most urgent cases should be referred to existing health facilities elsewhere in Haiti, possibly Saint-Marc and the capital city of Port-au-Prince".

The primary humanitarian needs are health, shelter, access to food and water. Although there is no outbreak at this stage, there might be a possible risk of waterborne disease epidemics.

Later this week, the team should be reinforced with the sending of four international volonteers: one psychologist, one doctor, one nurse, and one logistician specialised in water and sanitation. Other parts of the north-east region of Haiti have been affected by the flooding, but to a much lesser extent than Gonaives.

"Some villages around the city of Port-de-Paix have also been hit, but the medical situation in Gonaives is such that we need to intervene there fast now", reports Silvien Auerbach.