Hong Kong - "I was taken aback by the damage caused by these floods and the resulting suffering the people of Hunan are enduring" said Montserat Battlo, emergency Coordinator for MSF's relief operations in Hunan, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. Strong words from an MSF veteran who has spent most of the past six years working on emergencies the world over, including Somalia and Rwanda.
Fifty days after the floods, many of the victims are still living on top of the remaining dykes. People are packed onto these narrow dykes as temperatures climb to 35 degrees C during the daytime, without latrines and access to safe drinking water. The Provincial Health Authorities and MSF are concerned about the possibility of outbreaks of infectious diseases. Already there has been an increase in the number of cases of diarrhoea, upper respiratory tract infections and eye diseases. "Conditions are appalling," said Alyson Froud, MSF Medical Coordinator in Hunan. "We need to get these people off the dykes as soon as possible".
All MSF team members were very impressed with the tireless efforts of the Provincial Health Bureau, whose medical staff are treating the people stuck on the dykes. According to Nurse Froud "the daily open-air clinics on the dykes have been key in averting large scale medical problems".
MSF has just completed a distribution of medical kits and chlorine worth HK$ 940,000 (US$ 120,000) to the people of Changsha Prefecture. A similar operation will take place in Changde Prefecture early next week. Following a request for assistance from the Public Health Bureau, MSF will be expanding its assistance to areas south and east of Dong Ting Lake.
MSF is currently providing medical assistance to 1.5 million people in Hunan Province. MSF will remain in Hunan, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces until the acute phase of the emergency is over and the population's emergency medical needs have been met.